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Nursing Scholarship Winners at Lackawanna Take Roundabout Routes in Pursuit of Degree

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  • Written By: Allied Services Integrated Health
Nursing Scholarship Winners at Lackawanna Take Roundabout Routes in Pursuit of Degree


Photo from left, Meghan Chestnut, Donna Griffith, and Karen Giacobe.

At an age when some people are starting to think about winding down a career, Karen Giacobbe is passionate about finishing a long-delayed degree and fulfilling her dream of starting one as a nurse.

“All the jobs that I have had have entailed taking care of people,” Giacobbe, 55, of Dunmore, said. “It was just in my heart to do that — always.”

The mother of three is one of three Lackawanna College nursing students selected to be the first recipients of the Allied Services Nursing Scholarship, a partnership announced earlier this year to help promote nursing education and bolster the nursing workforce in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Like Giacobbe, the other two recipients — Donna Griffith, 46, and Megan Chestnut, 35, both of Scranton — are nontraditional students who have taken roundabout journeys to the place where they are.

But they share a common destination: an associate degree in nursing as part of what will be the first class to graduate from the Lackawanna program around this time in 2022.

Giacobbe, a Wilkes-Barre native, went to what was then Wilkes College after graduating from high school, intent on becoming an elementary education teacher. Then life took her in a different direction in the form of marriage and children, and she never graduated.

Although she loves children, she said she came to realize she is “more of a caretaker-type of individual.”

In 2008, she enrolled in the nursing program at Penn State, but left school again three semesters short of finishing her degree to take care of her ailing mother.

Through the years, she continued to work in several areas of health and became a certified nurse assistant. As an aide, she gained experience working with the elderly and hospice patients.

“I love the elderly,” Giacobbe said. “They just seem to be a forgotten group of individuals in society, and I have a heart for them.”

She didn’t give up her quest for a degree. She enrolled in the nursing program at Marywood University, where she took courses for a year before being accepted into the new program at Lackawanna last June.

For Griffith, a nursing degree from Lackawanna will bring her full circle.

She earned an associate degree in accounting from the school 25 years ago when it was still located in South Scranton and known as Lackawanna Junior College.

She worked in business for about 17 years before deciding she needed another challenge and a change of career.

The nursing field beckoned.

“I felt there would be more opportunities and I could make a difference in other people’s lives,” Griffith said.

She started chipping away at her degree about five years ago, working as a CNA at Allied’s rehabilitation center in Wilkes-Barre while taking classes in her free time.

Although fixed on wrapping up her studies at Lackawanna and becoming a registered nurse, she said her business background could be useful in the future, whether it’s in nursing home administration or another field.

“It may come back to me again,” Griffith said.

Chestnut, who has worked in the health care field for 12 years, most of that as a licensed practical nurse, said her original plan was to continue her education after becoming an LPN.

“But life happened, and my kids have always been my focal point,” the mother of three said.

Like Griffith, she continued to work while going to school part-time, finishing up her prerequisites, before deciding to take the plunge when Lackawanna launched its nursing program.

Her children, two teenage boys and a 3-year-old girl, have been supportive even though it’s been demanding.

“They are very good with it, actually,” Chestnut said. “They’re understanding.”

The Allied Services scholarships cover tuition, fees and textbooks. Under the scholarship guidelines, recipients have the opportunity to work at Allied while in school and are guaranteed a full-time position upon graduation and licensure as a registered nurse.

Allied is committed to supporting the scholarship program, which is open to second-year students, for three years, meaning a total of nine students will benefit.

Across its system, Allied employs about 200 RNs and 150 LPNs, said Judy Oprisko, vice president of human resources.

Its support of the scholarship program is a recognition of the need to invest in nursing education to help students achieve their goals and ensure a robust nursing workforce into the future, she said.

“It’s about getting those nurses into the workforce and helping them as much as we can to be successful,” Oprisko said.

Giacobbe said she thinks she has had a drive since she was young to be a nurse. With her degree now almost within reach, it’s coming into clearer focus.

“I never realized how much of a nurse I am without having a degree,” she said. “But to be able to work in that capacity, I need to complete the degree.”

Contact the writer:, 570-348-9132.