For DonorsFor Applicants
user profile avatar

Samantha Ewals


Bold Points








I am a dedicated and motivated nurse who believes in speaking her mind. I watched my parents struggle with their mental health and addictions as a child. My personal battle with anxiety and depression began in adolescence. These experiences inspired and motivated me to become a nurse in mental health. I have spent the last six years working in inpatient psychiatry, helping those in crisis. I am returning to school to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. As a nurse and future nurse practitioner, I strongly believe in affording access to healthcare for everyone and providing a holistic approach to healthcare. I am an advocate for change in a system that desperately needs it. I am passionate about reducing the stigma of mental health and addiction in society. I hope to expand access to mental health care in my career, particularly for underserved communities.


Walden University

Master's degree program
2021 - 2024
  • Majors:
    • Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research and Clinical Nursing

Metropolitan State University

Bachelor's degree program
2016 - 2017
  • Majors:
    • Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research and Clinical Nursing
  • Minors:
    • Psychology, Other

Normandale Community College

Associate's degree program
2013 - 2015
  • Majors:
    • Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research and Clinical Nursing


  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research and Clinical Nursing
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

    • Dream career goals:

      I want to improve access to mental health care and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness.

    • Crew Member

      2012 – 20131 year
    • Sales Associate

      Lane Bryant - Cacique
      2013 – 20141 year
    • RN

      Minnesota Masonic Homes
      2016 – 20171 year
    • Program Counselor

      ACR Homes
      2014 – 20162 years
    • RN

      ACR Homes
      2016 – 20171 year
    • RN

      Abbott Northwestern Hospital
      2017 – Present7 years



    2000 – 20055 years


    • John F. Kennedy High School Debate

      Speech & Debate
      2008 – 2009
    • John F. Kennedy High School Drama

      2008 – 2009
    • Destination Imagination

      STEAM competition
      2003 – 2005

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      American Red Cross — Volunteer
      2021 – Present
    • Public Service (Politics)

      Minnesota Nurses Association — Committee Member
      2022 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Second Harvest Heartland — Volunteer
      2016 – 2017
    • Volunteering

      Park Nicollet - Hospital Elder Life Program — Volunteer
      2013 – 2015
    • Volunteering

      Phillips Eye Institute Foundation Early Youth Eyecare (E.Y.E.) Community Initiative — Screener
      2016 – 2017

    Future Interests





    Brandon Tyler Castinado Memorial Scholarship
    My "mission" in joining the healthcare industry is to expand access to mental health care and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. For the past six years, I have worked as a nurse in acute inpatient mental health, providing care to adults, adolescents, and children facing crises. This work has been both challenging and rewarding. As I have gained experience as a nurse within the mental health system, I have witnessed its triumphs and shortcomings. My desire to work with those facing mental illness is deeply personal. Before I knew what mental illness was, it had already begun to shape my life. Both my parents have struggled with severe mental health and substance abuse disorders throughout my childhood. In my adolescence, I began my own struggles with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Two separate suicide attempts in my teenage years led to prolonged hospitalizations and residential mental health treatment. I am inspired to provide the best possible care to my patients because I know firsthand what it is like to be in their shoes. I decided to become a nurse at my second residential mental health treatment center. The care I received at this facility was excellent and helped me reach a place I hadn't imagined before - one where I could plan a future. So, at sixteen, with my therapist and social worker, I began to dream about my future. Nursing inspired me. It still does. The unique blend of art and science, the nuance of communication, and the rigidity of data are thrilling and fascinating. Each shift as a nurse brings different challenges, and mental health has its own unique brand. Keeping my patients safe, de-escalating when I can, and providing skills to help them cope are part of my day-to-day mission in healthcare. I try to impact each patient positively and hope that moves the needle forward, but I want to do more. That desire to have a more significant impact has inspired me to return to school to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Too many of my patients lack access to care. Part of the gap is a shortage of providers. People come to the emergency department because they can't get an outpatient appointment with their psychiatric providers. They discharge from the inpatient ward and won't receive timely follow-up care. As a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, I can first begin to address this in my practice and then go on to educate future practitioners to fill the gap. In addition to struggling to find care, many struggle to seek care in the first place. Mental illness has a stigma that physical illness does not. When I was a kid, and one of my parents was in the hospital for their mental health, the other parent would make up a physical reason for them to be sick. The shame attached to mental illness is almost more detrimental than the illness itself. Part of reducing that stigma is treating mental and physical health with parity. In my practice, I work with my patients to confront shame and stigma, advocate on their behalf, and educate my peers on the dangers of stigma and bias. In becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, I will continue this practice with an amplified voice and the autonomy my advanced training provides. Ultimately, I plan to go beyond the bedside to create policy change and continue my mission with more widespread effect.
    Elizabeth Schalk Memorial Scholarship
    Mental illness has shaped my life from the beginning. My parents struggled with their mental health differently, leaving an indelible mark. My father's moods unpredictably shift between extremes when left to his own devices. Delusions took him far away from those he loved, but treatments that grounded him in reality made him feel like a different person. His mental illness was loud and then quiet - an explosion followed by absence, and despite everyone's best efforts, it was impossible to hide. Our extended family intervened to supervise his parenting time and offered their homes because group homes don't allow overnight guests. For a long time, I didn't know what made him different, just that he was. As blatant as his illness was, my mother's struggles were more insidious. Where his condition left him debilitated in a short time, she continued functioning. Fueled by trauma, her addictions grew steadily, with little notice given until she reached out for help. She changed her mind about needing help several times and back again. Her struggles are no longer insidious out in the open but ebb and flow like a tide. My mental illness would become glaringly apparent in adolescence. A paralyzing cycle of anxiety and depression would lead me to attempt suicide twice before I could drive. In and out of treatment, I found a lot that didn't work. I also learned essential skills and lessons that are why I am in a place of wellness today. First, at the age of thirteen, I learned that addiction had a genetic component and the potential to alter my brain. So, instead of discovering if my parents and I have both mental illness and addiction in common through trial and error - I decided on lifelong sobriety in middle school. Sixteen years later, I still don't know if addiction and alcoholism are traits I share with my parents, and I've no intention of testing the theory. Then, at fifteen, after years of doctors throwing more medication at me every time my symptoms worsened, I returned to residential treatment. A new doctor dared to suggest we should see how I felt on nothing. After months of getting reacquainted with how I feel without medication, my anxiety still crept in and crippled me. The same doctor offered me this wisdom: "It's my job to give you the least amount of medication that makes you feel the most well." One antidepressant prescription later, instead of the half dozen in my rearview, my anxiety wasn't gone, but it was manageable. Finally, years and years of therapy later, I built a robust toolkit of coping skills that helped me reframe my thinking and regulate my emotions. So when anxiety tries to convince me that if I ask the Target employee where to find dog food, I'll die on the spot, I know I won't. Or when my parents struggle, and I feel like a failure because I can't save them from their own choices, I know I have no power to control them. And on the days when I still feel like hiding under my covers until the world goes away, I hug my dog, drink some water, and sit outside for at least fifteen minutes. I don't want to. I really don't. And I still get annoyed when it makes me feel just a little better. I've taken all of this with me on my journey as a nurse working in mental health. I'll take it with me as I become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. I know it will make a difference, and for that, I'm grateful.
    Wieland Nurse Appreciation Scholarship
    I was five years old when I first visited one of my parents in the hospital. I was visiting my father at the time. He told me that he was there because he hurt his back. While in the hospital, he made me a bracelet with pink and purple beads that I wore to school the next day. As a teenager, I realized this was my first time seeing my dad in an inpatient psychiatric ward. It would not be the last time, and as I became an adult, I would become the person who brought him to the emergency department when his symptoms became unmanageable at home. I was eight years old when I was home with my mother, and she had a stroke. We waited for the ambulance together, and I silently worried that my mom would die. Later when she was diagnosed with a rare vascular condition that required specialist care, my worry would not dissipate. I would take pride in my responsibility of helping my newly forgetful mother find her way through the hospital maze to her numerous appointments. Although her condition would ebb and flow throughout the years, my need to care for her remained. These two defining experiences in my life - my parents' illnesses, inspired me to become a nurse. It unlocked the part of me always waiting to help others. Throughout many hospitalizations, appointments, and even surgeries, I have seen at least a hundred different nurses provide care to my parents. Their compassion, dedication, and knowledge were extraordinary to witness. I have always felt that being a nurse is more than a job or profession; but something that I was called to do. I knew at seventeen that I would be a nurse. Since then, I have earned my associate's and bachelor's degrees in science in nursing. I have approached every shift as an opportunity to learn, connect, and make a difference. I know this is the work I was meant for, and even on my most challenging days, I am grateful for this path. I plan to journey further on this path in nursing to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I have spent the last six years working in an inpatient psychiatric unit. It's the same one where my father made me that bracelet. The bracelet is long gone, lost to an unknown decluttering session. But I still remember how my father looked when he gave it to me. When he reassured me that everything would be okay once the doctors fixed his back. After years as a nurse, I don't question why he hid the truth from me. Two decades later and the stigma surrounding mental health has not improved much. And that's why I chose the specialty of nursing that I did. The first reaction I get from other people, even other nurses, when I tell them I work in mental health is usually pity. The second one is usually confusion. The assumption is that my job is dangerous and my patients are scary. I won't lie to you. I have been assaulted at my current job - multiple times. I get called names a lot. But I also get the opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level. I am given a chance to help those in the most crippling mental anguish a person can know. It's not an easy job, but I am grateful for it and genuinely look forward to it. That's why I am continuing to pursue my career in this field. I want to keep helping this population and reduce the stigma.
    Cat Zingano Overcoming Loss Scholarship
    I lost John one month before I started graduate school. Every loss I had experienced before this had been expected. Not that expecting grief makes it less it just landed softer. Losing him felt surreal. My last conversation with him hit me like a punch to the gut. I had asked him to be careful when riding his motorcycle. As a nurse, I had seen and heard too many sad stories to count. Now someone I loved was one of them. John was more than my uncle. He was the man I looked up to most throughout my childhood. He protected me from people who should have been my protectors. His faith was steadfast, and that reflected in the man he was. Without his presence, I felt suddenly unmoored. My initial reaction was that I would need to postpone school. How could I possibly move forward with something so monumental in the wake of this loss? As I watched those I loved who were closest to John grapple with the same emotions, I was reeling with I was filled with a sense of purpose. I knew I had to be as steadfast for them as John had been for me. My aunt lost her partner, her elder son lost his father as he rode home from visiting him on his birthday, and her younger son was a thousand miles away at boot camp for the Marin Corps. Finding small ways to support them as they journeyed on their grief became part of my routine. I knew John would want me to continue with school. Initially, that is why I kept moving forward with most things because it is what he would have wanted. It has been over a year, and the loss feels like a part of me, not something happening to me. Slowly, I have begun to move forward with things, not just because John would be happy or proud. When I started struggling in school, I fought to raise my grades, realizing that my chosen path was the one I wanted. Now, every day is a fight against the ease of letting things slip away. I have to push forward for the things that matter to me. I have to choose the things that matter to me. The life I want to lead is the one I am living in and working towards. I am a dedicated nurse and will become a dedicated nurse practitioner. I am connected to my loved ones and will continue to nurture that connection. I am making healthier choices for my life because living a healthier life matters to me now more than ever. Losing John was hard. Moving forward because of him was easier than fighting for the life I want because I want it. Now I am making deliberate choices each day to be healthy, connected, and happy. I know that he would be proud of me. He would be happy for me. But that is not why I am doing this anymore. His loss has helped show me what I want for my future, and I will be forever grateful for that. But to live the life I dream about, I have to fight for it because I want it more. So that is what I am doing and what I will keep doing.
    Bold Reflection Scholarship
    Uncertainty. Anxiety. Depression. Hopelessness. This cycle began consuming me in childhood and continued into adolescence. For the longest time, it seemed that the cycle was unbreakable. Fortunately for me, I could access adequate mental health treatment at a young age. Early intervention with dedicated and passionate healthcare professionals taught me the skills I needed to cope with mental illness. The experience of living away from my family and engaging in mental health treatment around the clock would shape what I wanted for my future. Not only that, it would allow me to believe I was capable of having a future. Living in residential mental health treatment at the age of seventeen, I decided to become a nurse and work with individuals struggling with mental illness. After achieving my dream of working as a nurse in mental health, I began to consider if this was the farthest I wanted to go. Then the pandemic came and changed the world for so many people. After over a century of operation, the residential treatment center that helped me and many others had to close its doors. It struck me that care for mental health in my state was moving in the wrong direction. I decided that I wanted to be part of the solution more significantly. I want to improve mental health care access, reduce stigma, and help shape the future of mental health in my state. That is why I am working toward becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. That is my hope for my future, and it would not be possible without my past shaping it.
    Bold Empathy Scholarship
    Crisis. Working as a registered nurse in an inpatient psychiatric unit, I treat people going through the worst times of their life. Their crisis may be grief, depression, suicidality, mania, psychosis, or something else entirely. What they need from me more than anything else is empathy. The key to treating others with empathy is remembering that it is different from sympathy. Sympathy is feeling for others, and usually, the feeling is pity or guilt. Empathy is feeling with others, recognizing their perspective as their truth, and withholding judgments. Sympathy is easy. Empathy takes work. To treat others with empathy, you have to connect with their pain. That's hard because none of us like feeling pain; we spend a lot of time trying to avoid it. Sympathy is a natural reaction when someone tells you about their loss, pain, and frustration. Empathy requires you to make yourself vulnerable and connect with someone else. When working with patients in crisis, it would be easy for me to treat my patients with sympathy. To feel bad for them. I have to actively think about putting myself in my patient's shoes to practice empathy and show compassion. Often, this means focusing on complicated feelings that are painful for me to remember. I remember feeling abandoned, trapped, alone, unloved, and more. Although challenging, it is necessary and worthwhile to treat others with empathy. Making myself vulnerable and connecting with my patient through empathy makes me a better nurse. It also makes me a more compassionate person. At the end of a shift, when I have opened myself up to others, I have to take time for myself. Empathy takes work. And without recharging the batteries I use to practice empathy, I wouldn't be able to continue doing that work.
    Bold Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
    Individuals struggling with their mental health go to emergency rooms to refill prescriptions. They wait in the emergency room for an inpatient bed for days at a time and then wait for a residential bed in the inpatient ward for weeks or even months. They're discharged from inpatient hospitals and wait months for follow-up. In some cases, they give up on waiting and don't get help at all. Part of the reason for these struggles is there is a shortage of healthcare workers, and the field of mental health is suffering deeply as a result. Working as a registered nurse in mental health for the last five years, I see the daily consequences of that shortage. A practical solution for helping individuals who struggle with mental health is increasing the number of available mental health professionals. It is not the only solution needed, but it will help more people. The incidence of mental illness is rising worldwide, and there need to be enough mental health professionals to meet that demand. This solution may require increased education and outreach about available career opportunities in high schools and colleges. It may require student loan relief from the government and financial incentives from employers. It will need different groups to come together and make policy changes to be successful. I hope to be part of this solution. I've chosen to pursue my master of science in nursing to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. It is not an easy or short journey. One of the many reasons I chose this path is the shortage of mental health providers my community faces. In pursuing this path, I'll be able to help more individuals struggling with mental health and inspire other professionals to do the same.
    Bold Patience Matters Scholarship
    My whole body tenses when I hear the blare over the intercom system announcing ALERT GREEN! Nearly five years into my career as a mental health nurse, I still have the slightest jump-scare. An alert green can be many things in the hospital where I work. It's the codeword for a behavioral emergency. It could be a confused older gentleman trying to leave, a young woman withdrawing from drugs and assaulting an aide with scissors, or something else entirely. Although the nature of the crisis is uncertain, what's certain is that as a mental health nurse, I respond. The rush to reach the alert green may take a moment or ten minutes, depending on where it's happening in the hospital, spanning multiple city blocks. Once I arrive as quickly as possible, I do my absolute best to slow down and center myself. Whoever is at the center of this crisis needs that. What's more, they deserve every ounce of patience I can bring to the situation. Amid a behavioral emergency, it's easy to let things move quickly, leading to escalation. If I'm not patient and don't use my crisis intervention training, the likelihood of someone being injured or restrained increases. In my response, my ultimate goal is to help the person in crisis stay safe. Without patience, it's more likely that reaching safety will require doing things to the individual, such as restraints or injecting medications. However, I can work with the individual to create a safe solution without escalation with patience in mind. I've lost track of how many alert greens I've responded to, but that's why patience matters to me. Because in an urgent situation, patience allows me to help people and avoid hurting them. Patience allows me to work with them instead of doing things to them.
    Dashanna K. McNeil Memorial Scholarship
    On my first day of nursing school in pursuit of my associate's degree, I was in the minority of my classmates when I raised my hand to indicate that I was interested in mental health nursing. In a class of forty, only one other student raised their hand. The majority of students were interested in specialties such as emergency medicine or critical care. My interest in mental health nursing stemmed from first watching my parents struggle with their mental health and later my own struggle. The mental health professionals that helped me and my family made a world of difference in shaping our future. I desired to have that same impact. Still, the nursing faculty cautioned all of the students that day that the specialty we imagined being our best fit may not turn out to be our true passion. After all, real-world nursing is nothing like an episode of Grey's Anatomy. Once I completed my associate's degree in nursing, I went back to school and earned my bachelor's. Following graduation, I began working on an adult inpatient psychiatric unit in one of the largest hospitals in my state. The first year working in inpatient psychiatry was a steep learning curve. As I approach the fifth anniversary of starting in this specialty, my passion for working with mental health has not diminished. Last year, I decided to return to nursing school as a graduate student to pursue my master's and become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. I am inspired to pursue this degree, having spent almost five years working beside incredibly dedicated and driven nurse practitioners. Advancing my career through education will follow a similar path to these inspirational role models. In becoming a nurse practitioner, I will be able to have more significant influence over the care of my patients, gain independence as a professional, and eventually be able to educate future clinicians. My primary goal, first and foremost as a nurse practitioner, will be to provide holistic care to patients with mental health struggles. My education will not end with completing my degree, as I hope to learn new treatment modalities throughout my career to aid my patients in their journeys. Another goal I have for the specialty of mental health nursing is advocating for reducing mental health stigma. I plan to engage with public advocacy campaigns and openly promote the normalization of discussing mental health. Finally, I want to expand access to mental health care in my area. First, I will accomplish this by working as a clinician and focusing on underserved populations. Second, I will achieve this in my future work as an educator. I plan to return to school in the future to obtain my doctor of nursing practice degree. I want to finish my career as a nurse educator and inspire those interested in mental health nursing. I also want to educate and encourage future psychiatric mental health nursing practitioners.
    Bold Influence Scholarship
    If I were a highly influential figure, I would stand for reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. 1 in 4 adults in this country will struggle with their mental health in their lifetime, but stigma remains. Stigma can take the shape of personal feelings of shame about mental health. Societal discrimination and derogatory narratives can also represent stigma about mental health. Stigma is dangerous because it can hinder personal recovery journeys, prevent adequate healthcare delivery, and systematically oppress individuals struggling with mental health. Stigma can be deadly. Overcoming stigma can often be the first step in improving individual mental health. Whether that means accessing appropriate healthcare or accepting that struggling with mental health is not a personality default. As a registered nurse working in mental health, I face this stigma daily. Sometimes this comes from other healthcare workers, family members, and even my patients. People ask me why I work in this field, whether I am afraid of my patients, and more questions rooted in stigma and bias. I take these as opportunities to educate others and reduce the stigma in my community. If I were a highly influential figure, I would be able to destigmatize mental health on a broader scale. I already talk openly and honestly about the importance of my work in mental health and my struggles with mental health. Those conversations might hold more weight if I were a highly influential figure. Open and honest discussions shine a light on the dark shadows of the stigma that cloud the truth about mental health. Hopefully, my actions would change minds and create a more positive and honest view of mental health.
    Bold Career Goals Scholarship
    After five years working in mental health as a registered nurse, I have begun a master's program to pursue a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner career. I'm following this dream to obtain increased autonomy in my career and significantly impact my patient's well-being. While going to school part-time, I continue to work as a nurse part-time and will complete my master's degree in 2024. I have been inspired by the dedicated and knowledgeable nurse practitioners I get to work with daily. In five years, I hope to establish myself as a nurse practitioner and work in a psychiatric emergency department to provide care to those in crisis. I plan to donate my time to a community mental health clinic. My experiences dealing with my parents' mental health taught me the importance of community resources. My goal is to return to school again, at least part-time, to pursue my doctor of nursing practice degree. Within the next ten years, I aspire to have completed my doctor of nursing degree in addition to my master's. I hope to have expanded my skills to include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing psychotherapy to help those with post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to practicing as a nurse practitioner, I plan to begin teaching at a college or university. I dream about educating and guiding the next generation of nurses and nurse practitioners. Hopefully, I can inspire some of them to consider specializing in mental health. Ultimately, I hope this path leads me to be a better advocate for mental health. Decreasing the stigma of mental health is my dream career goal. Whether I eventually engage in policy development or community outreach campaigns, I hope that my actions improve the quality of mental health care and reduce the stigma of mental illness in my community.
    Bold Impact Matters Scholarship
    One way that I try to impact the world positively is by reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. 1 in 4 adults in this country will struggle with their mental health in their lifetime, but stigma remains. Stigma can take the shape of personal feelings of shame about mental health. Societal discrimination and derogatory narratives can also represent stigma about mental health. Stigma is dangerous because it can hinder personal recovery journeys, prevent adequate healthcare delivery, and systematically oppress individuals struggling with their mental health. Overcoming stigma can often be the first step in improving individual mental health. Whether that means accessing appropriate healthcare or accepting that struggling with mental health is not a personality default. As a registered nurse working in mental health, I face this stigma daily. Sometimes this comes from other healthcare workers, family members, and even my patients. People ask me why I work in this field, whether I am afraid of my patients, and more questions rooted in stigma and bias. I take these as opportunities to educate others and reduce the stigma in my community. I am not ashamed to talk about the importance of my work. I am not embarrassed to talk about my personal struggles with mental health. Open and honest conversations shine a light on the dark shadows of the stigma that cloud the truth about mental health. Hopefully, my actions lead to changed minds and a more positive and honest view of mental health. I plan to continue these actions as I move forward in my career to become a mental health nurse practitioner.
    Bold Persistence Scholarship
    In nursing school, they teach you about being your patient's strongest advocate. Of course, you don't know what that will entail when you're in school. The last six years of practicing as a nurse have taught me that it takes persistence. Nurses need to advocate for their patients because there are obstacles to receiving care. Since 2017, I've worked as a nurse in a mental health department. There are always obstacles to patients getting the care they need. Sometimes it's money. Sometimes it's time. But the biggest obstacle my patients face is doubt. Too many times, I have seen one of my patients arrive in my department with serious physical ailments that doctors dismiss. A patient diagnosed with a mental health condition who walks into an emergency department with sudden behavior changes is often immediately referred to psychiatry. No further investigation into the patient's condition is needed because it's clearly in their head. Last year, I took care of a patient with this exact presentation—an unexplained change in behavior and a history of mental illness. We promptly admitted the patient to the mental health department for treatment. Except the patient didn't improve once admitted, they rapidly declined. In one weekend, I worked forty hours, and every day the patient's condition worsened. Every day I paged doctors, called rapid responses, and advocated that the patient needed a different level of care than I could provide with the available resources. Repeatedly, the patient's condition was dismissed as symptoms of their mental illness. I persisted. I went to the supervisor and made my concerns known. When that didn't work, I went to the director. Eventually, my persistence worked. After being transferred to a medical ward to begin treatment for a systemic infection, the patient made a recovery and returned home to their family.