Mariia Nuzhnaia: First Recipient of Marian Lacy Endowed Scholarship

Mariia Nuzhnaia, the first recipient of the Marian Lacy Endowed Scholarship, was born in Russia and came to the United States in 2017 with her mother and sister.  Her mother had won a green card lottery through the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery program.

Read more about the Marian Lacy Endowed Scholarship and its founder, Susan Leslie

In 2017, over 22.4 million people applied for the 50,000 visas available through the program – making the odds of obtaining a green card through the diversity lottery only slightly better than winning the actual lottery.

Even after Nuzhnaia’s family was selected for the program, it took a couple years during which the family went through some interviews, received medical clearance, and had to show proof of financial stability.

“This was my mother’s dream, to live in America,” Nuzhnaia says. “But we all love it here, and I think this is a great, great place to live.”

They lived in Orlando for about a year, then moved to Titusville, where they have been living ever since.

“We did not know anything about the Space Coast or UCF,” Nuzhnaia says. “I did not know anything about rockets.”  It’s not something that was covered on the Russian media outlets, she says.

Still, after studying English since the first grade in Russia, she was a quick study.

After a year in Titusville, she was accepted into the dual enrollment program, an innovative program that allows high school students take college courses, and earn an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. Nuzhnaia had plans to become a doctor.

Along the way, Nuzhnaia began to learn more about UCF and its highly rated nursing program. She had previously not considered that career path; in Russia, the nursing profession is much different than the United States.

But, as Nuzhnaia learned more about UCF’s nursing program, the more she felt that it was a better idea for her.

“I think that as a nurse, you spend a lot more time with your patient, you build that rapport, you learn their story,” Nuznaia says. “You get to advocate for them a lot more than the physician does, and you are there for your patient, you know?

Nuzhnaia is grateful for the opportunity to study nursing, and for the Marian Lacy Endowed Scholarship.

“If you have a dream, you need to keep working toward it,” Nuzhnaia says. “This scholarship is helping my dreams come true because I don’t have to work at my outside jobs as much. It is helping me to focus on my ultimate goal of becoming a nurse, and I am so grateful for this opportunity.”

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