Ellen DeGeneres awards CSUF nursing student $50,000 to pay off her student loans

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A CSUF nursing student who won $50,000 to pay off student loans smiles for camera in nursing clothes
(Tanya Castaneda / Daily Titan)

Student loans are daunting for college students across America. That’s why when Lauren Wakefield, a nursing major, saw Ellen reach out to her college audience on social media about debt she instantly responded.

Wakefield, 29, shared why she planned to attend Cal State Fullerton in the fall 2018 semester.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Johnson University in Tennessee for management of nonprofit organizations and knew she wanted to help people in the nonprofit arena. She volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center, and helped teen moms and women in crisis pregnancies.

After six years of seeing how the work of the nurses impacted their patient’s lives, she decided she did not just want to volunteer as a nurse; she wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse.

“I just want them to know how loved they are, how much their babies are loved, that they are so special,” Wakefield said.

Wakefield was accepted into the accelerated nursing program in the spring and is currently in her first semester at Cal State Fullerton.

She said she is not a stranger to student loans. Wakefield had accrued a small sum of debt while finishing her first degree but was able to pay it off quickly. However, she had to take on more debt to fulfill her new dream.

Wakefield said she is a longtime fan of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” It is DeGeneres’ comedy, dancing, interaction with her celebrity friends and endless generosity, that has kept Wakefield watching.

“I feel like I’ve been watching it since it started… I think I was in the seventh grade then. I totally remember her starting the show,” Wakefield said.

Wakefield recalls completely forgetting she had written into the show until she received a call just weeks before the fall semester commenced asking her to be in the audience. Wakefield went alone, sitting next to strangers and not knowing what to expect.

She said the show carried on as usual until DeGeneres joined the audience with guest Nicki Minaj and started to call students’ names. A prize of $50,000 was awarded to three lucky students and Wakefield was called up second. She said it was “an out of body experience.”

Wakefield revealed that she did not get to keep the large check presented to her on the show, but did have Nicki Minaj tell her she could deliver her baby in three years.

Thanks to DeGeneres, Wakefield will no longer have to worry about paying for the rest of her two years at CSUF. As a woman of faith, Wakefield feels blessed by this gift.

“I think I am still in shock from it. I know having this money is such a blessing to be able to not have to worry about loans,” Wakefield said.

She will graduate with the class of 2020. She hopes to work in the crisis pregnancy clinic where it all started.

Wakefield has since been invited back to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for the 12 Days of Giveaways, which will air in December.

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