Cincinnati State student named a 2014 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar

November 25, 2014

Robert White
Media Relations/Communications Coordinator
(513) 569-4775 (office)
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Cincinnati State student named a 2014 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar

Sandra Oppelt, a student at Cincinnati State, has been selected as a 2014 Coca-Cola Leaders of 
Promise Scholar.  This scholarship is designed to provide new Phi Theta Kappa members with financial 
resources to help defray educational expenses, while also encouraging participation in the honorary 
society serving two-year colleges.

This year’s recipients were selected by a panel of independent judges from more than 900 applicants, 
based on outstanding academic achievement and demonstrated leadership potential.  

In January 2014 the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation increased its support of the Leaders of Promise 
Program from $150,000 to $200,000. The expanded funding allows Phi Theta Kappa to award more than 
200 scholarships of $1,000 each nationwide.

Oppelt, a White Oak resident, is a student in Cincinnati State’s Healthcare Informatics program.
A 1974 graduate of Colerain High School, she had already established a career in the health care 
industry when, at age 55, she followed up on a colleague’s suggestion and decided to pursue an 
associate’s degree at Cincinnati State.

Oppelt entered the workforce as soon as she graduated from high school. She started in the food service 
operation at Deaconess Hospital, and quickly advanced to staff positions on the medical operations side, 
eventually winding up as a graphic designer and medical staff/allied health credentialer. 

The arrival of the business computer played a big role in Oppelt’s career. She was working in purchasing, 
and then marketing and communications, as Deaconess evolved from using electric typewriters to the first 
generation of memory typewriters to the early business computers that occupied entire rooms. She took 
to them, and even though she had only a high school education, she soon became one of the institution’s 
go-to staffers on such issues.

After Deaconess closed as an active hospital, Oppelt transferred to Jewish Hospital, which is now owned 
by Mercy Health. In 2011, during an employee information session with an education coach, the idea of 
pursuing a degree in health information technology came up.

Oppelt learned that she could probably get support through the Greater Cincinnati Health Care 
Collaborative. Cincinnati State is a partner in the Collaborative, which, among other things, works with 
employees of participating hospitals to help them advance in their careers. (The program has become a 
national model, attracting repeated federal grants in an effort to replicate its success elsewhere.)

At Cincinnati State, Oppelt was able to waive her co-op requirements and some course prerequisites, but 
is still required to carry a heavy course load. Because she is still working full time, and caring for an 85-
year-old father, she is taking most of her courses online.

Even though much of the material she is currently studying mirrors what she has already done on the job, 
Oppelt said the learning experience has been valuable.

“There’s always something, even if you think you know everything, you don’t,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do 
a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t gone back to school.”

Through Cincinnati State, Oppelt – a 10-year breast cancer survivor — also discovered Phi Theta Kappa, 
the honor society for two-year colleges. That, in fact, is what led to the Coca-Cola scholarship application.
“It helps when you get a scholarship to do what you want to do.” She also credits Mercy Health with 
supporting her academic pursuits.

Sandy says earning her associate’s degree from Cincinnati State will be just a beginning — she’s already 
planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree. The only question is where.
“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, except I don’t want to stop learning.’’

Cincinnati State ( enrolls about 10,500 students and offers more than 130 
associate degree and certificate programs in business technologies, health and public safety, engineering 
technologies, humanities and sciences and information technologies. Cincinnati State has one of the 
most comprehensive co-op programs among two-year colleges in the U.S.