Student Success

A Calling to Nursing

Najae’ Ratcliff Follows her Dream with Support from Scholarships

A student standing in a nursing lab room

School of Nursing student Najae’ Ratcliff (Photo Credit: Robert Hall)

Advancing Oakland

icon of a calendarSeptember 10, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Catherine Ticer

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When Najae’ Ratcliff learned she had been awarded the Diane Norris Endowed Nursing Scholarship and the OU Completion Award, she dropped to her knees and gave thanks. She had been anxious about her pending tuition bill and did not know if she would be able to finish her last year of nursing school at Oakland University.

“I immediately called my mom and grandma and started crying,” says Ratcliff, who has aspired to be a labor and delivery nurse since childhood. “I will always remember the moment I received the scholarship award notification that would allow me to complete my final year
of school.”

Ratcliff says that her scholarships were based, in part, on academic merit, and it was an honor to know that her hard work was being recognized in such an important way. The Diane Norris Endowed Nursing Scholarship was created in memory of Diane Norris, Ph.D., RN, a valued and beloved faculty member and administrator at Oakland University. The scholarship provides financial assistance to undergraduate students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

The OU Completion Award assists undergraduate students who have made significant progress towards their degree, but are facing serious financial constraints preventing them from enrolling in the final courses needed for degree completion. For students like Ratcliff, a completion scholarship provides just-in-time support.

A Pontiac native, Ratcliff applied to Oakland University because it was close to home, she was familiar with the campus and her family agreed the university would prepare her for a rewarding career in nursing.

“Nursing reflects who I am as a person,” says Ratcliff. “I’m determined, kind and love to give to others. Helping people gives me a sense of purpose and fills my heart. I didn’t think twice about choosing this as my career.”

Ratcliff’s educational journey has been filled with strength and determination. “When I was in high school living without a home, I knew I never wanted to experience that in my adult life.” she says. She chose education as a launchpad to financial independence and the path to her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ratcliff was well on her way to completing her degree. As the virus spread, she lost family members, in-person classes transitioned to online, and she was out of a job for a while. In addition to the emotional toll, Ratcliff was faced with new obstacles.

“The pandemic created financial challenges that made me question how I would pay for nursing school. Heading into my fifth year of school, everything was up in the air. All of the scholarships I had received as a freshman had ended,” says Ratcliff.

“I want scholarship donors to know, from the bottom of my heart, that I’m very grateful to them for investing in my education and seeing me as someone who is a hope for the future,” says Ratcliff.

As Ratcliff counts down the months to her fall 2022 graduation, she is looking forward to beginning her career, inspiring others and, eventually, pursuing graduate studies. She also hopes to play a role in helping future nursing students achieve their goals.

“I have a tremendous sense of gratitude because donors made those dreams come true for me. I hope that one day I have the resources to be able to pay it forward for other students.”

Ratcliff says she would especially like to be able to help those from her hometown of Pontiac as well as students from her alma mater, Avondale High School.

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