Passionate student starts online campaign to pay for nursing school
Only a semester away from graduation last spring, Darien Jacobs realised he would not be able to raise the $27,000 he needed to complete his nursing studies in the US.
He “took a break” and focused on the full-time job he’d been simultaneously carrying.
It allowed him the invaluable experience of caring for patients hospitalised with Covid-19, but in order to move forward he needs the degree he was working towards in his hand.
The 24-year-old has until February 1 to pay his Virginia Commonwealth University tuition. Desperate, he started a Go Fund Me page this week.
“I’ve gotten to the point where the funds have run out. My parents are at the point where they just cannot do it. They have used their 401 (k)s, they’ve used their savings, they’re at the point where they’ve done all they can do,” said the Bermudian who was born while his mother, Donna Jacobs, was living in the US and plans on returning here to practice.
“I’ve tried my best. Trying to work full-time and be in school was very difficult to do because the nursing curriculum is very strenuous. There were just so many sacrifices made [by my] family. It’s just kind of at the point where there’s nothing left.”
A huge fan of science, anatomy, chemistry and biology, healthcare seemed a natural fit when it came time for Mr Jacobs to consider a career. He gained a bachelor’s in health sciences from VCU and is now enrolled in its accelerated nursing programme.
“I fell in love with nursing because I saw how nurses were able to take care of people in such vulnerable moments,” he said. “They were able to use critical thinking and compassion to take care of a patient holistically. I’ve always loved science and I have always been an empathetic person and I just found that this field was just the best fit for me.
“The field of nursing is so diverse. You have advanced practice nurses, you have nursing researchers … there are so many that are making so many contributions to medicine and to the evolution of patient care.”
Although asymptomatic, Mr Jacobs tested positive for Covid-19 last September and received his second vaccination against the virus on Wednesday. Also appealing to him is that he will be in a position to encourage Black people, in particular, “to be more comfortable with the medical system because of the historical distrust that we do have of medicine”.
Born in Maryland, he enrolled at Francis Patton Primary School in 2005 and spent two years in Bermuda. His mother is still on the island along with his grandparents, Sylvia and George Francis of Hamilton Parish.
“I moved back to the States but [usually] come to Bermuda once a year. I’m always talking to my grandparents about the hospital there and how they need more nurses because of the [global nursing shortage] and so I do eventually want to come back to Bermuda once I finish.
“I always remember my experiences in Bermuda, just that community feeling of family everywhere you go. I have never felt a community so strong, the support from everyone there. And at Francis Patton I loved it so much. I got so involved. That was the first time I got to experience lots of different things. I ended up playing the viola, I was singing in the choir. The exposure was amazing.”
His last visit was a surprise to see his mother two years ago. Since then he’s focused on work and school.
Mr Jacobs selected VCU for its “amazing nursing programme”. As an out of state student, he was charged $35,904 in tuition versus the $14,596 people born in Virginia had to pay.
“I was trying to follow my dream and just go there in the hopes that I could graduate because the curriculum is just amazing,” he said, adding that he always understood he was on rocky ground regarding his fees.
“I knew there was a possibility or a chance [I might not be able to pay] but honestly, I operate a lot on faith. Even with my first degree there were several times where I would hit a little bump in the road similar to this – although it wouldn’t be as drastic – and somehow it always worked out.”
The university “did a lot” to accommodate him until the pandemic hit and options became more limited.
“I am in the process right now, because I turned 24, [of registering as] an independent student. Since I’ve worked in Virginia for many years and paid income tax I’m going to finally be allowed to get my domicile residency approved for Virginia meaning I would then get in state tuition for my leftover semester. So that would cut my bill. It wouldn’t even touch $10,000.”
He has raised $5,820 on the fundraising platform so far. With so many people struggling financially because of Covid-19, Mr Jacobs set up his Go Fund Me page aware that his request for help was a big ask.
“I know these are hard times for people so I’m not expecting much but I do want to know that I did do all I could do and that, hopefully, someone feels inspired by my story: ‘I see the passion he has maybe I can try nursing.’ That’s what I want the message to be,” he said. “If I do get the help I am happy about it, if I don’t I’m still going to pursue nursing. It’s just going to take me in a different avenue than what I’d hoped for.
“[The Go Fund Me page came] only after so many different ways of trying different things: having different loans, different co-signers and just not getting approved. Finally it came to me to try it as a last resort, to see if there was a possibility that, if people hear my story, hopefully they might just feel the passion and maybe something can come from it.”
For more information visit: gofundme.com/f/help-darien-return-and-finish-nursing-school