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New scholarships help cancer survivors

Frederick Ellis Dashiell Jr. | 12/23/2009, 6:21 a.m.
Melissa Hinely, the first recipient of the Cancer Patient and Survivor Scholarship at Boston the University’s Metropolitan College,...
Melissa Hinely, the first recipient of the Cancer Patient and Survivor Scholarship at Boston the University’s Metropolitan College, works on her graduate school prerequisites.  A survivor of two bouts of cancer, Hinely is working toward becoming a nurse. Frederick Ellis Dashiell Jr.

Melissa Hinely sits in Sonsie Restaurant, laptop open, working on flashcards for a biology class.  Finals start soon, and she is prepping for the inevitable final exam.  “I’m not used to getting all the lectures in my email,” she said. “ I still like to take notes by hand.”

Hinely, 40, a Back Bay resident, is working on her undergraduate prerequisites for a graduate program in nursing and is the first recipient of a new scholarship offered through Boston University’s Metropolitan College.  

Working in conjunction with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Medical Center, the Metropolitan College offers a way for cancer patients and survivors to continue their education before it was interrupted by cancer.

  “We thought it was a good fit,” said Laura Blanchard, a Metropolitan College alumni officer.

The idea was conceived in September of 2008 when an alumnus of the Metropolitan College, who requested anonymity, contacted the Met about a possible scholarship for cancer patients and survivors.  

After an initial conversation, Blanchard and Katherine Meyer, Metropolitan College’s manager of Programs and Community, began to organize with Dana Farber to raise money for the scholarship.  “A lot of focus for fundraising and philanthropy is on the medical side of cancer,” explained Blanchard.

But this fundraising effort had a different goal. The money is going toward helping undergraduate students start, re-start or complete their education.

By the fall semester of this year, Blanchard and Meyer found Hinely and awarded her the first scholarship. The money came from a combination of outreach, alumni fundraising and a silent auction held on Oct. 28.

 “We’re looking to reach out to a new population of students,” said Blanchard.

Meyer agreed. “It’s a really important transition step,” she said.

  The scholarship requires that recipients be current Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or Boston Medical Center patients or receiving follow-up care from either center.  A note from their doctor is necessary in both cases.  Recipients must also have a high school diploma or GED and show evidence of financial need.

When Hinely decided she wanted to be in school in the fall semester of this year, she applied to several community colleges but was unable to enroll, largely because the seats were already taken.

While applying to the Metropolitan College, Hinely asked about the various tuition payment options given her financial situation.  “I asked if there were any scholarships for extenuating circumstances, like being a cancer survivor,” Hinely said.  She was in luck.

Despite its relative newness, the cancer patient and survivor scholarship is meeting its goals.  “It’s a brand new initiative, so we’re still looking to see what the reaction will be,” said Blanchard.

  If Hinely’s gratitude is any measure, the scholarship is working.  “This scholarship is the first step in the path to starting a new career for me,” said Hinely.  “This program has helped me move in the right direction.”