Eight years ago, Nicole Chaves and her family received unbearable news. Nicole's younger sister was diagnosed with an inoperable spinal tumor that would take her life in less than four months.
"We were constantly in and out of Boston Children's Hospital," Nicole says. "I saw the way the doctors cared for my sister, and I wanted to be just like them."
A freshman in high school at the time, Nicole was committed to her studies and intent on working her way into a health care field. "I wanted to be the best version of myself so that I could honor my sister's memory," she says.
When it was time to apply to colleges, Nicole looked for institutions with strong physician assistant programs. She was drawn to Springfield College, but knew it was out of reach financially. So Nicole applied to Berkshire Taconic's William Stanley Scholarship Fund, and received a renewable scholarship of $12,000 over four years.
"This scholarship really made a huge difference," she says. "It took so much weight off my shoulders knowing I could concentrate on school and not worry about how I was going to afford the next semester." Because she didn't have to work, Nicole was able to participate in student government, ski patrol and volunteer activities, on top of her science courses.
In 2015, Nicole completed her undergraduate work and moved on to earn a graduate degree. She is currently in her clinical year, receiving six weeks of hands-on training in a variety of medical disciplines at hospitals across New England. Her dream is to work in pediatrics so she can help ill children.
"The last five years of my life have been medicine-focused and school-driven," Nicole says. "I'm looking forward to getting out and helping the community."