First-Generation Twin Nursing Students Use Scholarship to Give Back

sonna and souadou diallo

Sonna and Souadou Diallo, Helene Fuld Health Trust Scholarship recipients, are in it to give back.

By: Katie Coburn

Three years ago, Sonna and Souadou became the first in the Diallo family of seven to graduate high school. Next spring, they plan to be the first to earn college degrees, too.

The Diallo twins aren’t only breaking records among family members. They’re also making great strides alongside their peers. As the twin sisters round out their third years in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at the University of Cincinnati, the college’s scholarship committee honored their academic achievements by awarding each a Helene Fuld Health Trust Scholarship.

As the nation’s largest private funder devoted to nursing students and nursing education, the Helene Fuld Health Trust awards scholarships to students of leading nursing schools that use innovative programs to develop professional and leadership skills among students, faculty and administration. Leonhard and Florentine Fuld created the trust in 1935 to support and promote the health, welfare and education of student nurses in memory of their mother, Helene Schwab Fuld.

"For me, it's all about giving back." - Souadou Diallo

Though neither Sonna nor Souadou thought they’d be selected to receive such an honor, they’re thankful they were. The scholarship means more to the Diallo twins than money to fund their nursing education. It means an opportunity to give back to those in need, something they look forward to as future nursing leaders.

"For me it’s all about giving back," says Souadou, who joined Sonna in using part of the scholarship to fund a spring break trip to Costa Rica, where they worked on an organic tropical farm with Serve Beyond Cincinnati, a UC volunteer organization.

Over the past year and a half, the Diallo sisters have traveled to places ranging from New Orleans, Louisiana to Namibia with Serve Beyond Cincinnati to do service work. Without the scholarship, Sonna and Souadou say they wouldn’t have been able to a­fford such a humbling and rewarding experience. A lack in funds also would have forced the twins to work more or move out of their off­-campus apartment and back into their parents’ home, both of which would distract them from their studies.

As the first in their family to pursue a college degree, the Diallo twins don’t have time to be distracted. They know well the struggle of working multiple jobs to support a family. They’ve witnessed their parents — who immigrated to the United States from Guinea, West Africa in the early 90s — and older brother do just that.

"I think that’s actually what motivated me," Sonna says. "We’re going to be the first ones. We’re going to actually have a career and not a job."

The Diallo twins plan to use their nursing degrees to break the cycle of job instability within their family. As leaders in the classroom, Sonna and Souadou also lead the way for their younger sisters, who have recently developed an interest in health care.

As Sonna and Souadou motivate their younger sisters to pursue a college education, they’re grateful for UC’s support of their own. Sonna says the Helene Fuld Health Trust Scholarship provides them the chance to continue their nursing education and ultimately do what brings them the most joy as future nurses: "I’ll be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is give back."