PORTLAND ? The Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing has been awarded a three-year $555,728 grant to develop resources to increase the number of Hispanic students entering the nursing profession. The grant, awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will establish LGSSN as a regional center for the pre-entry preparation and retention of at least 18 additional Hispanic students by the end of the 2006-07 academic year. The long-term goal of the project is to recruit and retain a student body that is 20 to 25 percent minority students, according to Peggy Wros, Linfield associate dean and professor of nursing. While other colleges in the state have programs devoted to increasing the number of Hispanic and minority students, this is the first such program focused on the nursing profession, Wros said. This new program will run in tandem with Linfield?s middle school mentoring program which is designed to help stimulate minority students? interest in entering health-related fields. The Linfield nursing school currently partners with several community organizations serving Hispanic and minority populations, and plans call for expanding those partnerships with Oregon high schools, health career programs, community college and health organizations. In addition, Linfield will also expand support services and resources to help ensure the success of minority students in completing their nursing education. Two immediate steps to launch the Linfield program include hiring a bilingual and bicultural director of multicultural programs to help recruit and retain disadvantaged Hispanic/minority students and hiring a full-time assistant financial aid administrator to advise and consult with students and explore financial aid opportunities. "We are committed to helping increase the diversity of students entering the nursing profession," Wros said. "This grant will provide the resources and support needed to ensure that more Hispanic students are recruited and complete their bachelor?s degrees in nursing." This new program is designed to identify pre-nursing students early and make sure they are enrolled in appropriate courses, Wros added. "We need to find the students that have the potential and who are interested in nursing and help them with the process," she said. "We need to promote nursing as a valuable profession which provides students with numerous opportunities and guaranteed employment. We want to help get that message out there and open the profession to more diversity. That in turn will help meet the growing health care needs of a population that is becoming more diverse."