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If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown anything, it is how important healthcare workers are. Thanks to the Army Emergency Relief scholarship, one young woman is closer to her goal of becoming one.

Amanda Combs, daughter of Aviation and Missile Command team member Lydia Combs, received an AER Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship while attending Auburn University. After receiving her degree in nutrition science, she plans to continue her schooling to become a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.

While Combs did qualify for assistance from the GI Bill due to her parents being veterans, when that money ran out, she said she was worried about paying for the remaining two years of college and her rising student loans. In-state tuition at Auburn is almost $6,000. That is when her mother found the AER scholarship and urged her to apply. Over the next two years, the scholarship funded more than $5,000 of her schooling, enabling Combs to focus on paying off her student loan debt. The average 24-year-old carries $16,500 in student loan debt, according to educationdata.org.

“Two years out of school and I almost have my student loans paid off,” she said.

That financial freedom has allowed her to pursue a master’s and her dream of working with children.

“My concentration is in pediatrics, I love kids,” Combs said. “In the multiple fields I have worked … the patients I am drawn for and have an excitement for are the little kids.”

She said she was surprised that more of her friends from military families were not aware of the AER scholarships and encouraged them – and anyone else that qualifies – to apply. Although she has aged out of the requirements for her scholarship, Combs said her partner is a Soldier stationed at Fort Rucker and when she pursues graduate school, she will reapply for another AER scholarship.

“They cover the bases for dependents – and spouses, which I love,” Combs said.

The requirements for the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship are that funds may be used toward tuition, fees, books, supplies, and room and board. Awards are need-based as determined by the Expected Family Contribution on the Student Aid Report from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Award amounts vary based on the applicant’s expected family contribution, AER’s total approved budget and the number of complete applications received.

According to AER, the recipient must:

• Be the dependent child of an active duty or retired Soldier

• Be under the age of 24

• Remain unmarried for the entire academic year

• Maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA and be pursuing his or her first undergraduate degree at an accredited college or university

• Not be a member of the military or be attending a military academy.

For more information, call AER officer Kathleen Riester of Army Community Service at 876-6299.

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