A UCOL Te Pūkenga learner who wants to use his nursing education to improve health services for Rainbow communities has been awarded a national scholarship.
Elliot Pepper, a third-year Bachelor of Nursing learner, received a Nursing Education and Research Foundation (NERF) Undergraduate Scholarship valued at $2,000.
Pepper says it was a relief to receive the scholarship, as it has helped him cover his tuition fees for the year.
"I don't have a Student Loan for my nursing degree. I work full-time over the summer break and use the money to pay my UCOL fees upfront each year. This year I came up a little short, so the scholarship has helped me cover my fees and other costs, like petrol when I'm on placement."
NERF Undergraduate Scholarship recipients are selected based on their academic achievement, contribution to nursing, and contribution to the community.
When he is not studying, Pepper dedicates much of his time to supporting members of Rainbow communities (LGBTQIA+, Takatapui, and MVPFAFF).
He volunteers at OutLine, a mental health organisation that provides support to Rainbow communities, their friends, whānau, and those questioning, including a free peer support line.
Pepper also works two part-time jobs – one as a support worker, and the other at InsideOUT, a national charity aimed at making schools and workplaces more inclusive and safer for young people from Rainbow communities.
Pepper says he wants to use his nursing education to help benefit Rainbow communities, who have specific needs around mental health, sexual health, fertility/pregnancy, and gender-affirming care for transgender people.
"I feel that I am grounded in my community, which is great for my nursing. It gives me a lot of passion and drive to do well in my studies because I know how I can help the Rainbow community."
Nursing runs in Pepper's family — he has two aunties in the profession and his mum always told him he would do a great job if he followed their footsteps. He tried a few other courses and jobs before realising that nursing was indeed the career for him.
"I really enjoy my support work job and just helping people, so studying nursing is taking that further. The degree has been a great experience overall and I have really enjoyed going on placement. My favourite was my placement in Ward 26 at the Palmerston North Hospital, which cares for patients with neurological diseases, diabetes, and heart diseases. It was such a cool environment and I felt my learning all coming together."