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This scholarship is shaping careers for Valley nursing students
nursing student
Roving pediatric nurse Paola Castrol says scholarships and entry level certifications are a helpful way to bring people into the healthcare workforce (VIVIENNE AGUILAR / CVJC).


CV Journalism Collaborative

Modesto Junior College nursing student Jennifer Fatima Seymore had been debating pausing her studies last year to support a family of six.

Then one day an email arrived, congratulating her for winning a $5,000 scholarship. Seymour was justifiably suspicious until she was able to confirm the message’s authenticity. 

“I thought it was spam, so I ignored it for a week,” Seymour said after receiving the news that she was chosen for Flora R. Martinez Nursing Scholarship last year. 

“My husband couldn’t believe it…It came just at the right time.”


Funds put to good use

She and her husband were looking for ways to support their household in Fremont while she attended school full-time in Modesto. 

Initially, she had saved a lump-sum to support them while she worked through the MJC nursing program, but expenses ate away at her savings faster than anticipated.

Because of the Golden Health Centers’ annual nursing scholarship, she was able to continue her studies and plans to graduate later this fall. 

Seymour used the funds for school supplies like scrubs, digital reference materials, textbooks and bills. Seymour said she plans to apply again before the application closes March 31. 

Golden Valley Health Centers opened its Flora R. Martinez Nursing Scholarship to local students in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties earlier this year. The organization gives a total of $25,000 to five nursing students annually in honor of Martinez, a founder and former board member of the organization.

“The first thing that drew my attention was the purpose of the scholarship,” Seymore said. “That it’s meant to support more Hispanic health care, minority health care and nursing. Those are all things that are totally aligned with all of the things that I’m in process with now.”

The scholarship awards $5,000 to five students enrolled in or attending classes for licensed vocational nursing, registered nursing or bachelor of science in nursing programs. 

Applicants are asked to describe why they are pursuing nursing and how they will further Martinez’s ideals, especially in terms of meeting healthcare needs for underserved populations in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Former winners, like Seymore, are able to re-apply for one additional year of support. 

Scholarship named for longtime community advocate

The organization honors Flora R. Martinez, who served as a GVHC board member for 43 years, according to the scholarship application. She died in 2014 at 90 years old in Merced, and left behind a legacy of community advocacy and self-determination.

She is well-known for her work in the Merced and Planada communities.

When Martinez came to the area as a farm worker in the 1940s, she spoke very little English. Over time, she dedicated herself to learning the language and naturally fell into the role of translator for women at work, as she noticed them struggling to access basic healthcare resources.

During her final semesters, Seymore is able to intern at the Sutter Health Memorial Medical Center and Doctors Behavioral Health Center in Modesto.

While attending to the mental health and physical needs of patients, Seymore said she also feels the growing need for interpreters within hospitals and clinics. It’s an important issue to her as she speaks Spanish, Tagalog, Hindi and English, and is sometimes the only person able to translate.

Seymore always knew she wanted to work in healthcare. She has also served as a chronic disease management coordinator at a Stanford medical facility. 

As she gets closer to finishing her associate nursing degree and makes plans to transfer to a university, Seymore said the main issues patients in Modesto face stem from socioeconomic barriers. 

“In Modesto, (many) people don’t speak English. People are very strained with resources. They don’t know where to go. They don’t have regular health care,” she said. Seymore said other patients don’t have primary care doctors and need help better understanding their medical conditions.

A desire to serve others

While nursing requires medical and technical knowledge, when Seymore serves the San Joaquin Valley, she finds herself helping people set themselves up with day-to-day resources, like arranging Dial-a-ride transportation services to get to appointments.

Seymore said she puts herself in positions to assist patients who fear going to a doctor’s office. For example, she’s heard some patients tell her they fear accessing health care will get them deported. Others say they’ve been prescribed medications but don’t understand why. 

Like Martinez, Seymore dedicates her life to educating herself in an effort to set an example for both her children and the community. 

Seymore said people who are thinking of applying shouldn’t question themselves. 

“Don’t let the numbers or the oddities discourage you from doing it,” she said. “Just try because that area really needs the help. The cause and the greater purpose of it is huge. It could make a huge impact. There’s so many people that need help.”

You can learn more about the eligibility requirements for the Flora R. Martinez Nursing Scholarship by visiting

Vivienne Aguilar is the health equity reporter for the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit newsroom in collaboration with the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF).