Cheyenne Swanger, Morris Thompson Competitive Scholarship Recipient

A nursing student whose hometown is Allison Park, Pennsylvania, Cheyenne Swanger is the daughter of Jack and step-mother Amy (Fink) Swanger of Allison Park. Her paternal grandparents are Kathy and Jack Swanger of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, and her step-grandparents are Joyce and Tom Fink of Allison Park.  

Cheyenne’s biological maternal grandmother, Denise James of Fairbanks, helped Cheyenne learn about Doyon Foundation’s scholarship program. Since fall 2015, Cheyenne has been a recipient of Morris Thompson Scholarships for undergraduates.

She completes the nursing portion of her education in May at Citizens School of Nursing before a final year at Penn State University for her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing.

Doyon Foundation: That last year of nursing school can be a real challenge. What’s on the horizon for you, Cheyenne?  

Cheyenne: I’ll complete the nursing portion of my studies on May 2 and then go on to take the NCLEX, the National Council Licensure Examination, which will board-certify me as a registered nurse. Summer school starts May 7. I’ll be taking three courses so that as I move into my final year at Penn State the load won’t be quite as strenuous.  

Between the end of nursing courses and the start of summer school, my paternal grandmother Kathy (meme) and I are taking a short trip to New York City to refresh. We’ll visit the 9/11 Memorial, see “Wicked” on Broadway, and just take in the many sights.  

Doyon Foundation: Then school starts again? 

Cheyenne: August begins the final year toward my bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN); graduation is December 2019. I’ve applied to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and hope to be on staff there by July. It’s the largest trauma hospital in western Pennsylvania. 

After receiving my BSN, I plan to work several years as a nurse. Eventually I want to complete a master’s degree in nursing and then take steps to become certified as a nurse practitioner. Once I reach that goal, I want to specialize in pediatrics. I’d like to have my own practice or work in conjunction with another physician. 

Doyon Foundation: That means several years of schooling ahead.  

Cheyenne: I’m staying focused solely on my current studies. I believe that will give me a solid foundation as I move forward.  

Doyon Foundation: How did you choose nursing?  

Cheyenne: As far back as I can remember, my goal has always been to become some part of the medical field. Add to this that my paternal grandfather has had multiple sclerosis all my life.

Although all aspects of nursing pique my interest, my aspiration is to apply my skills in some form of specialized nursing. 

Doyon Foundation: You’ve mentioned the importance of keeping focused. How have scholarships from Doyon Foundation helped?  

Cheyenne: Without a doubt, Doyon Foundation has been a true blessing to me. I’ve watched as classmates struggled with families, jobs and schooling without assistance. I’ve watched as some failed to realize their dreams. 

The generosity of the Doyon Foundation scholarship allowed me focus on my studies without the burden of worrying where funds would come from to see me through the school year. Neither of the schools I have attended or am attending were accustomed to dealing with Native American scholarships. There were many times when the Foundation went out of its way to email me and worked with me when I was confused about scholarship details.  

Doyon Foundation’s ongoing support and some of the financial worry lifted helped me to do as well as I have with my college studies. And for that I’m forever grateful.  

Doyon Foundation: You believe in paying generosity forward. You’ve done that throughout your time in nursing school.  

Cheyenne: I’ve been truly blessed to have financial support through scholarships. Not having that constant financial pressure has allowed me to volunteer, starting with the beginning of my college career when I was activity coordinator for elderly people in an assisted living home. I must say that even among the aging, competition in games and activities is ever present! 

I also volunteered for two years as clerical help in the financial aid office while attending the Citizens School of Nursing. Currently I’m volunteering at the Veterans Administration hospital in Aspinwall near Pittsburgh. I help compile informational folders that educate veterans on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I donate blood regularly and I’m registered as a bone marrow and stem cell donor.  

Between school and volunteering, there’s not much time left for hobbies. But I always find a little time for family and friends.  

Doyon Foundation: What challenges have you encountered? And what advice do you have for others who confront obstacles? 

Cheyenne: I find I put pressure on myself to excel in everything I do. Exams are the worst. I’ll study and study, then test time comes and it seems as if I tense up. Doesn’t matter if I get an A or not, if I have missed questions, I become very disappointed in myself. I’m learning that as long as I’ve put forth a solid effort and truly dedicate myself to studying, then I’m doing the best I can. That’s all anyone can really do. 

Doyon Foundation: You’d encourage others to believe in themselves too.   

Cheyenne: The best advice I could give anyone is that if you dare to dream, then with determination and dedication your goals are attainable. I’d say believe in yourself, but also know that anything worth having will never come easily. Yes, it takes work. Stay focused, be positive, and don’t give up.   

If you’re making an effort to do well, there’s always someone there to help. And never hesitate to pay it forward.  

Morris Thompson Portrait

The late Morris Thompson

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson Scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students earn college degrees. 

The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. This year’s golf classic takes place June 21 and 22 in Fairbanks. To learn about opportunities to support the event as a sponsor or volunteer, visit the Foundation website for details.