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A new scholarship for veterans

Ernesto Treviño receives first VBSN award endowed by Pappas family

Christopher J. and Maria C. Pappas with Ernesto Treviño.

Military service and philanthropy are family values for Maria C. Pappas. Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston and student Ernesto Treviño recently benefitted on both counts.

Treviño, a second-semester student in Cizik School of Nursing’s accelerated Pacesetter Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), is the first recipient of the Maria C. and Christopher J. Pappas VBSN Scholarship.

Pappas’ father, Brigadier General Mike P. Cokinos, served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was decorated after the Battle of the Bulge in Western Europe. He then remained in the Army Reserves until the 1980s, advancing to the rank of one-star general. Pappas and her six siblings grew up in Beaumont, often attending Memorial Day commemorations and other military events.

“I think our whole family has a little compassion for the military,” she said.

Chris and Maria Pappas recently met for dinner and shared stories about military service with Treviño and Kevin J. Foyle, senior vice president of development and public affairs at UTHealth Houston.

Treviño first considered a career in law enforcement and received an associate's degree in criminal justice. He later took a police recruiter’s advice to get some military experience and joined the Navy, where he ultimately became a hospital corpsman.

“That was my first hands-on experience with health care,” Treviño said. “I enjoyed it so much that it became my passion.”

Treviño was stationed in Great Lakes, Ill., Beaufort, S.C., Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and Camp Mabry in Austin, serving deployments in Afghanistan and Japan. After discharge from the Navy, he earned a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and health from The University of Texas at Austin before enrolling at Cizik School of Nursing.

Since he had already earned one bachelor’s degree, Treviño’s veterans’ educational benefits will run out before he finishes his BSN, and he is grateful for the Pappas’ support.

“The scholarship allows me to focus on my studies full time,” he said. “I no longer have to work full-time, so I can reallocate that time to studying and getting involved at the school. I want to be a tutor next semester, and I’m also working on my Spanish.”

Treviño is applying for a professional student nurse position at a local hospital and enjoying the variety of instruction and experiences provided in the BSN program. He hasn’t decided which nursing practice option to pursue, but he has enjoyed volunteering with the Wounded Warriors Project® and visiting with older people at the Veterans Administration.

Pappas was glad to get to know Treviño and said the family’s intent for the VBSN scholarship is to enable those who have served our country to successfully transition to meaningful civilian work, succeed in their jobs, and fulfill their dreams.

She and her family have helped many nursing students and faculty members do just that over the years. Pappas serves on the UT Health Houston Development Board and is active board member and former chair of the PARTNERS organization. In addition to supporting the school and university in other ways, the family endowed the Maria C. and Christopher J. Pappas Family Distinguished Chair in Nursing, currently held by Associate Dean for Research Constance M. Johnson, who is also the Lee and Joseph Jamail Distinguished Professor.

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