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Mary Cate Leonard, Founder of Embrace

I've been there.

I enrolled at Gonzaga University’s post baccalaureate DNP/FNP program in 2015 after working as a surgical nurse for one year. For the first two years of my program, I attended school full-time and worked full-time. I believed I had no other choice. Financial aid and scholarships did not cover all my expenses. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  In 2018,  my husband and I welcomed our precious daughter into our family. Shortly after, my husband was involved in a wakeboarding accident, which left  him seriously injured with surmounting medical bills. At that time, I not only had a newborn and a mending husband, but I was starting clinicals. You probably know how important (and how stressful) clinicals are. To ensure that I would continue to do well in my program, I came to the conclusion that I could not sustain full-time employment. I was scared. Finances were beyond tight and it became obvious that I would need to find a way to get by. I searched for scholarships, but was astonished to find that very little is available for NP students.



I felt frightened and overwhelmed, so I called my advisor and asked for direction. Although she was compassionate and wanted to help, she explained that she endured a similar experience when she was a student. Little had changed. There simply was nowhere for nurse practitioner students to turn for financial support. I was heartbroken, but determined to come up with a solution where I could both support my family and graduate from my program. One week after that call, my husband and I listed our house for sale in order to pay for my last year’s tuition.

Days after selling our home, Covid-19 descended upon Spokane. The Governor was compelled to initiate social distancing and shelter-in place orders. My final clinical rotations were suspended and my graduation delayed. Once again, I was forced to take on additional and unexpected educational expenses. It was a bruising reality. But I was not defeated. I am pressing forward. 

I wholeheartedly believe that it does not have to be this way for similarly-situated students. Consequently, I embraced  the opportunity to work with other NP students to launch Embrace, a nonprofit dedicated to providing scholarships and financial support for fellow NP students.  We understand that even a small boost can go a long way. We may be able to  buy a book or pay your fees. In short, we’re here to help.

Founder and President,

Mary Cate Leonard 


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