Lauren Hiatt, a 19-year-old sophomore from Olathe, Kan., was selected for the $10,000 Pearson Prize from the Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Pearson Higher Education, which owns media companies such as The Penguin Group and Financial Times. Winners were chosen following a lengthy application process that considered their service to their communities (view Hiatt's application video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXJCDmHDW1k).
Hiatt, who graduated near the top of her class at Olathe North High School, said she chose Pitt State because of its highly regarded nursing program.
"We practiced writing resumes, looked for colleges, and located scholarships (in high school)," said the petite brunette. "The nursing program at PSU appealed to me as soon as I learned about it. It's a dream I've had ever since I was a kid."
That dream began when Hiatt was a child, growing up with her 10 brothers and sisters in a home filled with what she describes as extreme neglect and abuse. A school nurse noticed the signs of neglect, leading eventually to Hiatt's removal from the home. After several years in foster care, she was adopted.
"I realized that kind of action takes someone brave," Hiatt said of the nurse with whom she had an emotional reunion not long ago. "She inspired me to go into nursing."
Mary Carol Pomatto, chairwoman of the Department of Nursing, said students who enter PSU's nursing program have often been inspired by professionals who have made a difference in their lives.
"Nursing is a profession in which people can have a direct impact on the lives of others," Pomatto said. "Our graduates are not only well prepared technically, they are also committed to making a positive difference in the world."
Hiatt has demonstrated that commitment by working alongside her family at Kansas Foster and Adoptive Children, a nonprofit house near Kansas City that collects and distributes clothing, toys, and personal hygiene items to foster children.
Hiatt's hard work and ultimate success in the pursuit of scholarships also sets her apart, according to Tammy Higgins, PSU's director of Student Financial Assistance.
"Lauren is among an elite group of students nationwide who have persevered to search out opportunities that have benefited them financially. She should be applauded for her success and determination," Higgins said. "We're thrilled she made the choice to use her scholarships to come to PSU."
With her recent acceptance of the Pearson Prize, Hiatt is even more prepared to make her dream of becoming a nurse a reality.
"It's unbelievable to me how everything has worked out. I feel very grateful knowing I'll be set for school," she said. "I've worked hard, and I hope I can be an example to others that good things can happen."
©2010 Pittsburg State University