Stories

Aspiring nurse lands $10K scholarship from U.S. Bank as dad battled COVID-19

February 02, 2021

Minnesota high school student Addison Gray is a winner of the semiannual sweepstakes program.

The day Addison Gray found out she was getting a $10,000 scholarship from U.S. Bank was one of the worst of her life. 

Just a day earlier, her father, Kevin, had checked into a Duluth, Minnesota, area hospital with COVID-19. And now, he was taking a turn for the worse.

“I remember it vividly,” she recalled. “I was sitting in the kitchen. I’d just gotten off FaceTime with my dad. He was having a hard time breathing as we were talking, and a hard time keeping his eyes open. Then I got a call from his doctor, saying they were moving him to the ICU. He needed more oxygen.”

As Addison began to absorb the news, she talked with her mother, Colleen, and tried to keep a positive outlook. Then her phone rang again.

“So, I was having a pretty hard time with this, my mind going all these places,” she said. “Then I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I figured it might be the doctor again so I better answer it. And they said, ‘We’re happy to let you know you’ve been selected for a $10,000 college scholarship from U.S. Bank.’ 

“I was shocked. I was like, ‘Are you sure you have the right person?’”

Addison remembered applying, of course – “I’ve been applying for a lot of scholarships,” laughed the Hermantown High School senior. But winning? And the timing? It was surreal.

Addison’s father would remain in the hospital with COVID for 26 days, with family unable to visit. He continued to have trouble breathing and needed supplemental oxygen, and because of that, phone calls were difficult. And during that time, Kevin’s younger brother Barton – Addison’s uncle – died from COVID complications. 

“My brother was a great guy, and it was so hard to lose him while I was fighting for my life at the same time,” Kevin said. “At a time when this pandemic hit our family hard, U.S. Bank was a huge bright spot. For Addison, her dad is in the hospital with COVID, and not doing well, and then we get this bright spot of news. The timing of this, to find out the same day her dad goes into the ICU? It couldn’t have come at a better time. We feel so blessed and fortunate. It means more than we can say.”

After nearly a month in the hospital, including over Thanksgiving, Kevin was able to return home Dec. 10, and his health has been improving.  

“Being able to get home for the holidays and be together again, it makes you remember what’s really important,” Kevin said. “And so we’re very grateful for that.” 

The scholarship is part of the U.S. Bank financial education scholarship program, which has provided more than $500,000 in scholarships over two decades. As part of the application, students can take a series of online personal finance lessons covering student loans, credit scores and more. In 2020, students completed more than 275,000 modules, with 99 percent saying they felt more confident in managing personal finances after taking them. Applications for 2021 scholarships are now open.

“This pays for my education,” Addison said. “It paves the way for a future for me. It really makes it a possibility to go to college. I still can’t wrap my brain around $10,000 – I’ve never seen that much money at one time.”

The financial head start builds on the one Addison has already earned for herself academically. Though she doesn’t even turn 18 until March, she will have already finished two years of college by taking classes while still in high school. She’ll be attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the fall.

“I took a tour of the campus and just fell in love,” she said. “Plus, they have a great nursing program.”

That’s right, nursing. The incredible confluence of it all is certainly not lost on Addison: That of all the things to be going to college for, of all the things she’d receive a scholarship to pursue at the exact moment her father was lying in a hospital bed, it was nursing. Some things, it seemed, are meant to be.

What started with what she jokingly termed an accident-prone childhood with her fair share of hospital visits, was nurtured by a love for the how-perfectly-named TV show Grey’s Anatomy, has now become deeply personal. 

“Nurses make or break your hospital stay,” she said. “While I was on the phone with my dad, a lot of times a nurse would peek their head in. They were the ones keeping his spirits up. Especially, because with COVID, they were really the only people who could visit him. Seeing my dad in that state, and seeing the way those nurses cared for him, it definitely reinforced going to school to help more people.”

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