Scholarships fill this student’s tank, in more ways than one

Melissa Varner
July 01, 2019
Giannatti receives her scholarship
Jessie Giannotti, right, with Dr. Zoher F. Kapasi, dean of the MUSC College of Health Professions

Jessie Giannotti remembers going to work with her mom, a pediatric physical therapist, when there wasn’t a babysitter available. She thought it was fun to hang out in her mom’s office or tag along on home visits. It was during one of those therapy sessions that Jessie overheard a conversation that inspired her to pursue her own career in health care.

She says two of her mom’s clients were talking about how much they respected her mom. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, they’re talking about my mom. She had an impact on them,’” Jessie said. She knew then that she wanted to make the same kind of impact.

For the last few years, Jessie has been working toward her master’s degree in the Physician Assistant Studies (PAS) program at the College of Health Professions (CHP). She’s excited to start a career in family medicine when she graduates in August. She’s also feeling pressured to find a job so she can start paying back her student loan debt, which totals more than $50,000. She knows that’s less than many of her classmates. “I know for a lot of other people in my program it’s much more than that,” she said.

Jessie, who grew up in Marietta, Georgia, pays out-of-state tuition with help from her parents and grandparents. The price tag for 27 months is about $90,000. That number can easily double when you factor in living expenses, food, transportation, health insurance, and loan fees.

PA students at CHP also drive to rotations that are often hours away from Charleston. That means more money for gasoline, food on-the-go, and a place to stay if there isn’t free housing available for residents. “Some of my classmates have had rotations in Myrtle Beach and have had to pay out-of-pocket through student loans for places to stay, which during vacation season can be kind of crazy,” Jessie said.

Because the PA program is so time-intensive, students are often discouraged from working while they pursue their degree. “You're definitely dependent on loans for all of your income and to pay for tuition and living expenses,” said Jessie. “I’ll babysit every now and then. But that's the only other income coming in.”

Jessie is grateful for the scholarships she’s received: $3,524.76 from the CHP Endowed Scholarship and $1,500 from the Colonel (Ret.) Michael G. La Belle Scholarship. The money went directly to Jessie’s tuition. Because of her scholarships, Jessie didn’t have to take out additional student loans to cover filling her gas tank to get to her rotation in St. Stephen or buying groceries to stock her freezer.

She says scholarships helped keep her debt and stress low while she concentrated on what’s really important. “Every bit helps lessen that burden and gets you closer to what you really want to do, which is care for other people.”

About the Author

Melissa Varner

Keywords: Thank You Notes, Health Professions