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"We accept 40 students a year," said Dr. Kirk Nooks, GHC Marietta site director. "It's very competitive. We do have a relationship with WellStar, so that's where our nursing program in Marietta is located. This is addition to the nursing program in Heritage Hall up in Rome."

"Karen's application and essay about what the scholarship would mean to her stood out. It was not hard to agree on her as an awardee."

resident Karen Bates.

of six people who had to come together and agree on the 10 women to whom we would award scholarships this year," said Denise Billups, Emerge scholarship chairwoman.

But Bates said she refused to give up. The 1986 Walton High School graduate decided that she would not become a victim and feel sorry for herself. Instead, she took control of her life.

"I thought, 'I can't find myself in this position anymore,'" recalled Bates. "I've got to secure a career and not just have a job."

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Bates, 42, ended what she called an abusive, 16 year marriage in 2004, leaving her to raise her children alone. Last December, she Nike Free Junior underwent a second surgery to treat a carcinoid tumor that hadn't metastasized. Before that, she was laid off from her job as an executive administrative assistant in public health with the state in October 2009. She had spent nine years working for the state.

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The following January, Bates decided to enroll in Georgia Highland College's nursing program in Marietta. Currently, she is finishing up program prerequisites and hopes to begin program coursework this fall toward earning an associate degree in order to become a registered nurse.

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The WellStar Educational Scholarship program also provides financial assistance to students who meet certain requirements, Nooks said.

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"I've got three teenagers at home; one about to graduate," she said. She remembered thinking, "'How am I going to make it? What am I going to do?' You start out optimistic but after a few days or week (you're not)."

In March, Bates received a $5,000 scholarship from Emerge, a Norcross based nonprofit that supports women through scholarships. In the past decade it has provided $200,000 in scholarships to 50 women.

Bates said that juggling raising a family and school she said she maintained a 3.8 GPA would not be possible without the support of people such as her boyfriend, Bernard McClarin, whom she said has been by her side through the ups and downs.

"Karen is one of our shining examples of a student who did not let circumstances get in her way," he said.

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However, as painful as her struggles have been, she has become a stronger person because of them, said Bates, who plans to eventually earn a master's degree in nursing.

Georgia Highlands College's two year nursing program is designed to prepare graduates to take the licensure exam for an RN and practice as a beginning level professional nurse.

Karen Bates survives an abusive marriage job loss to forge career helping others

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