NNMC Student Chicqueeta Whitaker Awarded Venessa Valerio Memorial Scholarship

Chicqueeta Whitaker/Courtesy photo


Del Norte Credit Union (DNCU), northern New Mexico’s hometown financial cooperative, is proud to announce that the Venessa Valerio Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to Chicqueeta Whitaker, a second time recipient of the $1,000 award. Whitaker is pursuing her RN to BSN degree at Northern New Mexico College (NNMC).

“Del Norte Credit Union is happy to continue our support to the Northern New Mexico College Nursing Program on behalf of the Venessa Valerio Scholarship. We are honoring Venessa, her mother and supporting the youth in Española,” said Kim Currie, Chief Marketing Officer at Del Norte Credit Union.

The Venessa Valerio Memorial Scholarship is open to students enrolled in Northern’s associate or bachelor nursing programs. Whitaker’s first award helped her earn her Associate Degree in Nursing in 2021. With this second award she will be on track to her complete the RN to BSN program in the Fall 2022 semester.

“The scholarship provides me with the opportunity to finish my journey towards completing school and getting my bachelor’s degree,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker is a first-generation graduate. She chose nursing because it is a rewarding career and “I believe that it will always challenge me.”

“Being the first in my family to graduate high school and to graduate college I feel puts me in a better position than my parents were, which I think was their ultimate goal: for me to be able to have a better experience, a better life than they had growing up. I think that’s why they pushed it so much,” Whitaker said.

Academic success has given Whitaker a sense of security and self-confidence and a means of achieving her goals, but it also satisfies her lifelong passion for learning.

“The thing I like best about pursuing nursing is probably the learning, the education. It could be about procedure, it could be about anatomy or a disease process or anything new that you might come across,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker works full time while taking a full course load. She was a veterinary assistant until November 2020, when she joined the Christus St. Vincent ICU unit. She finds relief from the mental stresses of the ICU unit by volunteering at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and the Española Valley Humane Society. She also volunteers at Christus St. Vincent, helping nurses set up for in-service training classes.

Whitaker is looking forward to the scholarship relieving some of the financial stress of attending college. She is trying to move to a part-time position at the hospital.

“I would like to be able to truly focus on learning and getting every bit of knowledge that I can without the anxiety concerning the cost of tuition, books, supplies, and everyday costs of living,” Whitaker said. “The scholarship will provide me with more time for studying and time to volunteer for nursing-related activities in my community.”

As a nurse of color, Whitaker wants to help address disparities in the healthcare system by learning cultural competence, advocating for her patients and working on changes in her workplace and through community outreach and policy advocacy. 

“In the medical world, there are lots of disadvantages to being a woman of color, especially when it comes to maternal death rates for black women,” Whitaker said. “I think having a diverse healthcare system helps bridge some of those disparities, not only for black women but for other minorities as well.”

After graduation, Whitaker wants to join the Navy Nurse Corps, an idea sparked while volunteering for World Vet to provide volunteer veterinary care for the Masai tribe’s working donkeys in Tanzania. She was inspired by a nurse she met in transit who was going to do humanitarian work in Kenya for Doctors Without Borders.

“With my passion for traveling, I thought I could use my nursing experience and degrees to provide healthcare services to people around the world, and I thought going through the military would be the best bet to help me achieve that goal.”

Whitaker is also considering pursuing a master’s program in forensic nursing, merging her nursing degree with an earlier field of study in forensic science.