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Chico State

Learning From Experiences, Nursing Major Forges Path to Success

Student Marifren Francisco smiles in a formal white jacket and clear-framed glasses.

In the coming weeks, we will be celebrating the accomplishments and stories behind 2024’s Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship Recipients. The award—one of the largest and most prestigious at Chico State—celebrates scholarship, extracurricular activities, and outstanding academic, and professional accomplishments.

For Marifren Francisco, California State University, Chico was an easy choice. The atmosphere, affordability, and downtown location pulled her in right away. Once she got here, seeing students in Chico State’s School of Nursing, widely regarded as one the state’s finest, donning their maroon scrubs took her motivation to a new level. 

“I told people I wanted to be one of them,” Francisco recalled. “I said, ‘just watch, I’m going to be that person.’” 

Now a senior nursing major in her final semester, she has achieved a 3.9 GPA, enjoyed invaluable hands-on experiences, expanded her leadership qualities, and is preparing to graduate in May. Before that, however, Francisco will be honored as a recipient of the 42nd annual Lt. Merton Rawlins Merit Award. Following graduation, her goal is to work as an intensive care nurse and eventually as a perioperative nurse in the operating room. 

School of Nursing faculty Richard Burton notes that Francisco’s genuine kindness and empathy toward others align perfectly with a career in nursing. 

“Marifren has pursued this major with such enthusiasm and dedication, I have no doubts that she will have great future success as a nurse,” he said. 

What does the scholarship mean to you and what will it allow you to accomplish? 

I had impostor syndrome, applying for the scholarship, and when I heard back during the first few weeks of school, I was in shock and I cried. I’m here on my dad’s GI Bill, which covers my tuition. I’m also using his Chapter 35 benefits [which provides education opportunities to dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled] because he had a heart attack in 2010. The Chapter 35 stipend has been carrying me throughout nursing school and I’m losing those privileges as of January 2024. I don’t qualify for FAFSA, because I’m getting all this extra tuition coverage. Having this award took so much off my plate. I actually considered dropping out of college because I couldn’t cover the fees of nursing school, supplies, campus fees, and living here in Chico. My parents can’t support me because my dad’s medically not okay. If I didn’t have this scholarship, I honestly don’t know where I’d go at this point. 

What opportunities to gain hands-on working experience have you received at Chico State? 

I’ve had the opportunity to have hands-on experience here in Chico at Enloe Medical Center. I’ve been to Marysville Adventist Rideout. I’ve gone to Mercy Medical Center in Redding. I’ve gone to Restpadd Behavioral Health in Red Bluff. We go all around Northern California. Next semester, I’ll be at Oroville Hospital. It’s been exciting to take the skills I learned in class and help people. I’ve administered medications from semester one of the nursing program. I’ve helped nurses, watched procedures, and helped do procedures. I’ve resuscitated people back to life, I’ve lost patients, I’ve helped deliver a baby, I’ve cut the cord. I handle everything from the beginning of life to the end. I’ve helped people in their worst moments, all while being a student.  

Which programs or people have made a difference in your educational journey? 

I’ve been very involved at Chico State. I’ve learned something from every organization, every job, every professor. My first leadership experience here was with Envy Hip Hop Dance Team. I wasn’t really a leader, so it was strange serving on the board for the team, but they really showed me how to function as a leader. I worked at Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE) as its kids’ program director, starting as a volunteer and climbing my way to the top. They’ve been super supportive in helping me get into nursing school—they gave me my volunteer hours and taught me how to talk to people, how to lead conversations, and how to coordinate events. I used the skills from CAVE and applied them when I interviewed for the nursing program. Right now, I’m the president of United in Nursing. That’s really taught me how to be humble and how to support others—the way to do that is to open an ear and listen. I think every single professor in the nursing program has challenged me—they don’t baby you and I really appreciate that. 

What’s something not in your nomination form that would be fun to know about you? 

I’m a hip-hop dancer, I’ve never had formal training. The first time I ever danced was here at Chico State. I’m dancing with all these people who have competed since they were 6 to 10 years old. And I became a choreographer with no experience. It’s been really fun. I’m learning contemporary, jazz, all these things that require technical abilities. I couldn’t afford to do dance as a kid. I remember asking my mom if I could do dance when I was 10 years old. All my friends were in dance, and I wanted to do it. She said, “sorry, no.” Instead, she got this free violin, and she made connections. I played violin from when I was 7 or 8 years old until I was 18. I’ve also played piano since I was 6. I played ukulele. I played baritone for about two years. I was in percussion in high school, I played xylophone and marimba. And I’m learning guitar right now. I really love music. It’s super fun and relaxing, so I try to do it as much as I can.