Scholarship Fund Established by Dr. Stephanie Brown and Her Stan State Alumnae Daughters Aims to Support and Retain First-Generation Pre-Med and Nursing Students
January 05, 2024

For an entire summer, Dr. Stephanie Brown lived in India where she witnessed firsthand what it was like to live in poverty. It opened her eyes to a world that, as the daughter of an attorney, she had never seen. 

Later, while attending Stanford University, she traveled to the Philippines and worked as a paramedic. It changed her life. 

“In the Philippines, I realized that I wanted to serve people who are underserved,” she said. “It was then that I really considered the issues surrounding immigration, poverty and race. Seeing incredible poverty and great need opened my eyes. There seemed to be nothing more relevant to me.” 

That revelation is at the heart of the First-Generation Pre-Med Scholarship fund that Brown and her daughters, Lydia and Nelia Strachan, established at Stanislaus State. 

The three have donated more than $300,000 for first-generation pre-nursing and pre-med college students from Merced and Stanislaus counties.   

The women hope the scholarship encourages recipients to stay in the area or return after they complete their medical studies to help grow the region’s pool of healthcare professionals. 

“I was quite inspired by Stan State’s President’s Central Valley First-Generation Scholarship,” said Brown, referring to the initiative that provides first-year students a four-year scholarship and transfer students a two-year scholarship.  

“The gift of scholarship is an opportunity to serve and nurture future generations by providing students with educational opportunities that my own children had at Stanislaus State,” Brown said. 

“The gift of scholarship is an opportunity to serve and nurture future generations by providing students with educational opportunities that my own children had at Stanislaus State.” 

- Dr. Stephanie Brown

Both of Brown’s daughters are alumnae of the University as is Brown’s son-in-law, Orlando Olivera.  

Since the fund’s inception, Brown’s selection committee has awarded scholarships to 10 students. The recipients receive up to $12,500 annually for up to two years.  

Awardee Hussein Maatouk plans to go to medical school after he completes his studies at Stan State. 

“Not only will this scholarship help me to reach that goal, but it is also a huge motivational boost to continue on this path,” Maatouk said. 

The scholarship recipients, all of whom are bilingual and were born and raised in the Central Valley, expressed their appreciation in thank-you letters. 

“You have offered me hope that hard work, effort and persistence does pay off, and that there are good people in the world willing to help students just like me pursue their dreams,” wrote scholar Jasmin Dominguez Cervantes. “The First-Generation Pre-Med Scholarship will provide me with the opportunity to continue focusing on my education and dreams.” 

Other awardees expressed similar gratitude. 

“I hope that through my hard work, I can complete the nursing program at Stan State and be successful in healing the lives of all those who walk through hospital doors,” said Genesis Maciel. “I am optimistic for the potential this scholarship has toward assisting me along my academic journey.” 

Sandy Shamoul can see the short- and long-term effects of the scholarship. 

“I have made so many sacrifices to pursue my education in nursing while maintaining a household of five,” Shamoul said. “With your help, I feel I am one step closer to achieving my goals. Not only does this award instill your faith in me, but it also strengthened the belief I have in myself. 

“One day I hope to help other students who are struggling to reach their goals the same way you are helping me.” 

Kassandra Garcia has a similar outlook. 

“Your generous donation has inspired me, because it has shown me there are people out there that hope I succeed without even knowing me,” Garcia said. “Hopefully, one day, I am able to give back to another student.” 

Brown wasn’t thinking of recipients paying it forward with future scholarships when she established the fund. Rather, her goal was to help students make it through college. She would like to see the region’s large health systems employ professionals from the Central Valley who have cultural connections to the community as the scholarship recipients do. 

Brown, now a Sacramento-area resident, understands the region’s dynamic having worked in the medical field in Modesto for 15 years, including time she spent recruiting personnel for Kaiser Permanente. Students in Stanislaus and Merced counties must leave the area to receive medical training to become physicians. Brown would love to see local universities be able to educate future physicians and keep them here, where they understand the needs and culture of the people. 

Brown wasn’t a product of the Central Valley. She attended the College of Alameda and then transferred to Cal State East Bay, where she was a student while working full-time. 

“I was not a first-generation college student, but I was an adult independently funding my education,” she said. 

She remembers getting up to study at 4 a.m. because it was the only free time she had before she went to classes and then to her job. 

Brown persevered and earned a medical degree from UC San Francisco (UCSF) and took a pediatric residency at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland. Years later, she returned to school and became an adult psychologist.  

She remembers a classmate at UCSF who worked in the agriculture fields side-by-side with family members. His family doubted he could attend medical school and couldn’t even conceive of him attending college, but he made it through medical school with Brown. 

The scholarships she and her daughters have established now help Stan State students. 

“I would like to make it easier for families to allow their young people to take this up,” Brown said. “I want them to know they are not alone.”  

2024 Recipients   

  • Jose Medina-Arellano 
  • Ruby Cardenas 
  • Melanie Rivera Toledo 
  • Hussein Maatouk 

2023 Recipients 

  • Hussein Maatouk 
  • Jasmin Dominguez Cervantes 
  • Genesis Maciel  
  • Jose Medina-Arellano 
  • Lucero Leon Vizcarra 

2022 Recipients   

  • Jasmin Dominguez Cervantes 
  • Kassandra Garcia 
  • Genesis Maciel 
  • Maria Aguayo 
  • Sandy Shamoul 

The scholarship fund, while initiated by the family, welcomes donations from all community members and organizations, embodying a spirit of collective support and generosity. Please contact University Advancement at (209) 667-3131 to learn more.