Lettie Pate Whitehead and Maymi Walker Chandler Memorial Scholarships make college possible for GSU nursing student Porshea Cooper
External funding from the Dr. Mark Mark Coppage Nursing Scholarship helps as well

The very first question on the application for the Dr. Mark Coppage Nursing Scholarship, awarded by the DeKalb Medical Foundation, seems tailor-made for a Georgia State University student: “Discuss your commitment to making a difference in your community and your concern for humanity as evidenced by your acts of caring for others.” Another asks about leadership qualities.

Porshea Cooper (right), a nursing major in GSU’s Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions, had both questions covered: in her scholarship essays, she said, “I talked about how I was a leader by starting my own nonprofit organization mentoring young girls.”

Well, then. Two birds, one stone.

But Porshea is no stranger to multitasking: she has applied for and won three separate scholarships, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship, the Maymi Walker Chandler Memorial Scholarship, and the DeKalb Medical Coppage Scholarship. This ability to excel at multiple tasks in multiple arenas—scholarly, professional, and philanthropic—has served her well at GSU, an institution known for its multitasking student body.

Not only is Porshea involved in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and a member of the Honors College at GSU, she is taking what she calls a “strenuous” program of courses “that involve 6-12 hour clinicals.” She is also involved in Softer Touch, an organization that serves “the children of underserved/underprivileged communities.” This focus on working hard while taking classes and simultaneously serving as a leader in the community is typical of Georgia State’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Do not be mistaken, though—while Porshea is indeed a force for positivity in her community, a leader in her school, and a care-taker in her profession, she has not been made into these things by the organizations in which she serves or the school she attends. GSU works less like some sort of transformative machine that creates something out of nothing and much more like a magnifying glass, simply taking the skills and qualities of its talented, caring, and engaged students and enhancing them, bringing them into better focus, and making them easier for the world to see.

Indeed, it is hard not to notice Porshea Cooper’s intelligence, leadership, and desire to make a positive difference in her community. One of her scholarships required her to impress three doctors and four nurses simultaneously during an interview.

“I was nervous at first,” she confessed, “but once the interview started I was very comfortable and confident and my own personality shined through and they were drawn into what I had to say. They laughed a lot and told me that I had a vibrant spirit. At the end they thanked me for being myself.”

Of course she was awarded the scholarship.

In her scholarly life, her professional life, and her community life, Porshea can’t help but take care of people, even when it requires the leadership skills to deliver tough love instead of a softer touch. For example, during a particular group project worth one fifth of the students’ final grades, a couple of classmates were not quite pulling their weight. The other group members were not sure how to approach the situation so Porshea stepped up.

“I took initiative and spoke with the two members of the group and let them know what they were doing wrong and how they could correct it in a positive manner. I let them know that their input was needed and would be appreciated and I also let them know what would happen to them if they failed to complete their part of the project.” This direct leadership style worked, as the group-mates “appreciated the respect that I approached them with,” she said.

With all of these positive attributes and all of this determination—along with the scholarship support she needs in order to focus on her studies and her community involvement—it is clear that both GSU and Atlanta can continue to expect great things from Porshea just as she expects them from herself.

“I mean business!” she declares, and who could doubt her?

― Reported by Anna Espada with additional writing by Heath Wood, (404) 413-3422