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Medical Mentorship: Creating Space at Dalhousie

The following article first appeared on Dalhousie University’s blog site of the Global Health Office and is shared with permission.

Kwe’! My name is Mercedes Stemm, and I’m a Mi’kmaq woman born and raised in Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation, New Brunswick. I’m in my last year of my Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Indigenous Studies. Since 2019, I have been the Program Assistant for the Indigenous Health in Medicine (IHIM) Program within the Global Health Office. In my position, I am part of many different projects, events, committees, and initiatives. In addition, I had the wonderful opportunity to create my own program. Upon arriving at the Global Health Office, the Director asked me what I believe Indigenous students interested in medicine need to succeed at Dalhousie. I was tasked to explore ideas about potential new supports and programs. After discussions with colleagues and friends, a proposal was developed to create a mentorship program. The program proposed to connect Indigenous medical and health professional students with Indigenous undergraduate students aspiring to become health professionals. After a year of planning, we were able to pilot this program in September 2020 with the Bachelor of Medical Sciences program and in collaboration with PLANS (Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians).

This pilot mentorship program is part of a larger collaboration between Dalhousie University and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF). The Foundation is based in Florida but has many ties to Nova Scotia. Last year it partnered with Dalhousie on a matching gifts program to help Indigenous and Black Nova Scotian students pursue studies in health care through pathways programs. It committed to match up to $1 million in donations to Dalhousie over five years. This collaboration has allowed Dalhousie University to advance our commitment to ensuring Indigenous and African Nova Scotian students participate in education and careers in the health professions.

The creation of this Pilot Mentorship Program is to establish and enhance connections for Black and Indigenous students with other Black and Indigenous students, faculty, and/or professionals by providing guidance through academic and professional development. Increased supports have been shown to improve completion rates of programs, decrease student stress levels, and increase self-efficacy.

The main purpose of this program is to reduce and eliminate barriers to underrepresented students exploring their full potential as learners. The Faculty of Medicine was responsible for organizing the mentorship match between the student/mentee and mentor. Student mentees who were matched with a mentor were then encouraged to take leadership in the relationship to ensure that they were able to get the most value from their experience.

The pilot program consists of five undergraduate Bachelor of Medical Sciences students in their first or second year of study. They were matched with mentors in their last year of their Medical Science degree, medical students, and graduate students. The structure of the program consists of relationship building, skill-building through workshops, and celebration through events. Workshops do not only focus on skills development, but also cultural knowledge and engagement. The program has space for online discussions and reflections, and students have one-on-one time, both with mentors and program coordinators, to discuss topics and ask questions.

The overall goal of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Mentorship program is to increase representation of Indigenous students in medicine through recruitment, community collaboration, and partnership. This mentorship program will help achieve those goals. Our hope is that students will come out of the program with lifelong connections, knowledge, and supports.

Read more about Dalhousie’s Medical Mentorship programs at the following links:

Medical Mentorship Part 1: Ottawa Supports Indigenous Student Success

Medical Mentorship Part 2: Student Perspective

Medical Mentorship Part 4: Professional and Cultural Connections


Mercedes Stemm is Program Assistant for the Indigenous Health in Medicine Program at Dalhousie University

The Changing Face of Philanthropy

This past June I was watching a virtual conference session and heard someone say there is only one Native person on a private foundation board. Interesting I thought!  I knew it to be untrue because 1) I serve on a private foundation board with 11 other Native people – and 2) I know a number of other Native people who currently serve on private foundation boards.  This led me to do a very quick research project over the next week to find as many Native people on private foundation boards as I could.  I was moderating a panel at the RES 2021 Summit in July – the Changing Face of Philanthropy:  Native people and Native foundations, and it would be useful information.

In that study, which was not exhaustive in any sense, I found 28 Native people serving on 13 private foundation boards.  I also identified nine Native people serving on the boards of seven community foundations.  And five Native people currently serve as the CEO or Executive Director of either a private foundation or community foundation.  WOW!  Definitely more than one Native person!  I focused this effort on private and community foundations and on the boards to show that there are a growing number of Native people in these philanthropic leadership positions.  Are there enough?  Absolutely not.  Should there be more?  Absolutely. Is change happening fast enough?  Change never happens fast enough.

Johnson Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors and staff

I have 40 plus years of working in Indian Country and 35 years of working with philanthropy to look back on to see that change has occurred. When I went to my first Council on Foundations conference in the late 1980s – as a presenter – there was nary a person of color representing a foundation board and only a handful of staff.  That was the birth of Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) which sought to increase the number of Native people in the field and to bring attention to the amount of philanthropic funding going to Native causes and organizations.  I was asked to join my first private foundation board in 1993, the Hitachi Foundation, one of three I’ve served on over the past 28 years, including currently, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation since 2006, and the Native American Agriculture Fund, since it was launched in 2018 as the largest Native private foundation.

Where real change is occurring is in Native non-profits raising funds from foundations, corporations and other donors to re-grant to Native causes and organizations.  In my little research project I identified 11 Native funds, starting as far back as 1977 up to the present day.  I’m sure there are more of these as well.  This doesn’t include the “community foundations” or “funds” set up by tribes from enterprise funds or other sources of revenue, or the Alaska Native Corporation Scholarship Foundations funded by corporate revenues, or the Native scholarship organizations, or those set up specifically about philanthropy like NAP and Native Ways Federation.  Just think of the growing cadre of Native people serving on these boards and as staff who are adding significantly to expertise in Native philanthropy.

I’ve been in conversations recently with others about this being a “moment in time” for change.  From the social unrest of 2020 and growing attention to equity, diversity and inclusion in both the public and private sector, change is happening faster, opportunities and doors are opening in more places, and more resources are available for social justice.   Will this continue?  It should and it must.  It will continue to change the face of philanthropy.


Sherry Salway Black is Vice Chair of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors.

An Interview with Neasha Prince, Founder of FAU’s First and Proud Organization

Neasha Prince, a recent graduate of Florida Atlantic University, was a first-generation scholar who founded FAU’s First and Proud Organization in partnership with FAU’s Office of First Generation Student Success, a grantee partner of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. We talked with Neasha, now a first-year law student at St. Thomas University College of Law, about the First and Proud Organization and the Office of First Generation Student Success and how both were instrumental in shaping her college experience.

AF: Tell me how First and Proud came about.

NP: I went to FAU in the Fall of 2017. I was able to go to FAU because of the Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars program. I was one of the first four to receive it. I said to myself, there’s definitely more than four first-generation students that need assistance. I had a friend I knew who was first-generation but she wasn’t a Kelly/Strul scholar. By the spring of my first year, we were having conversations about First and Proud.  It began in early 2019.

Neasha Prince with a First and Proud Club panel.

I spoke to Ron Oliver, (then-Director of the FAU First Generation Student Success Office) about this idea, and he said, ‘Just go for it.’ Next thing, I’m meeting with other first-gen students to be a part of the board. And within the first semester, we had about 1,000 members.

AF: What were some of the activities you put in place?

NP: The best thing we put in place was really just talking to our members. Every person has a different first-gen story. You might be first-gen but not first in your family or you might be first-gen from another country. With first-gen students, there’s no guidance at home. We never had a family member to help us go through what we’re going through.  At school, you figure at least I’ll get some guidance.

We had a lot of events, a lot of panels talking to our students. Also, we worked a lot to go back to our members to find out what they needed the most – how can we help you on a professional scale. Once we were able to establish some lists of needs, we worked to see if the university could match that for us. A lot of our first-gen students don’t have the ability to network, so we created a workshop where we had a lot of well-connected people who spoke to our members. And these were people that were also first-gen. Some were from FAU, but we also made connections that our director had at the time, so it exposed our members to these opportunities for networking. First and Proud is not like any other clubs at school. You’re actually partnering up with the University for an array of career opportunities for students. We’re giving them the opportunity to change the trajectory of their careers.

AF: Did First and Proud Change the trajectory of your career? 

NP: Very much so because of all the connections I made through it. During undergrad, I had two internships, one in social media marketing at BBC International in Boca Raton. Also through connections I made at the university I was able to gain an internship with Kellogg’s Information Technology Department in their Division of Project Management. My scholarship was able to cover my housing and lodging costs for going out of state for the internship as well. It was a wonderful experience. I got to meet a lot of interns from across the world. We had an opportunity to build an app for our client, the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. That really broadened my perspective and made me think of larger ways to accomplish my goal of helping my community.

AF: What advice do you give other first-gen students?

NP: The advice I would give, first and foremost is to not be afraid to put yourself out there. We can get very scared to put yourself out there and miss out on opportunities. The best advice I can give is, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and just be a sponge, soaking up as much as possible. I always said ‘Yes’ to opportunities. The only time I ever said ‘No’ was if something was going to conflict with a commitment I already had made. You never know when an opportunity can lead to another opportunity.

AF: The resume you’ve developed in just a short time seems like a testament to that.

NP: That’s true. After I graduated, I paired up with AmeriCorps and had an assignment in Connecticut at the Great Oaks Charter School as a STEM tutor for eighth graders. After that I moved back home and I had landed a job as a social worker for an after-care program at the Firewall Centers in Fort Lauderdale. My job was making sure every home of the kids in the program had the resources the kids needed.

AF: How did you decide to go to law school?

NP: During my final year at FAU, I was approached with the opportunity to go to Israel. It was the Maccabee Task Force Black Student Leaders Trip. During the trip, I met a lot of Black students who had gone to HBCU schools. When I went, I was at a crossroads as far as what I wanted to do. I was surrounded by a lot of individuals who were profound in who they were and where they were going. All I knew was that I wanted to help my community and be a voice for my community. I just didn’t know what that looked like. The trip taught me what it really means to make effective change in impoverished communities. Being a lawyer was the only career avenue that I felt could accomplish that for me for the rest of my life.

When I came back home that December, I spoke with my mentor and said, ‘Change of plans. Let’s figure out how to do this.’ So while I was in Connecticut I was working on my LSAT and my admission applications. That’s when I got admitted and accepted.

AF: You mentioned your mentor. Tell me more about the role of mentors for first-gen students.

NP: Well mentors are key. For myself, I wanted to be sure I was being guided by the right person. My mentors were absolutely inspirational from the fact that they understood who I was as a person, who I was growing to become. They understood that sometimes I get stuck in my head, wrestling with who I wanted to become. My senior year I had an amazing mentor. She was very relaxed but also nurturing. At First and Proud, we encourage mentors. We were in the process of developing a mentoring plan so our members understood how important a mentor is. We wanted to create a mentoring initiative. Mentors truly do make a difference in how we view our lives. You connect with that mentor on a different level – on a professional level.

AF: Anything else you want to add about First and Proud?

NP: Toward the end of my senior year – the pandemic year, I was approached with the idea of creating a foundation in association with the First and Proud organization. So we launched the First and Proud Foundation in May of 2020.  It’s a sister organization with a mission to raise funds for first-gen students. Oftentimes the first response you hear when trying to help first-gen students is the need for money. So that’s the goal. It’s my personal baby that I’m working on. We have launched, and we have been raising funds. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to allocate those dollars. Our focus with the foundation is trying to create a pipeline where we find as many first-gen students as we can and recruit them to FAU, but even if they don’t choose FAU, we want to provide them with a whole lot of resources prior to their entrance to college.


Angie Francalancia is a communications specialist with Johnson Scholarship Foundation

 

 

From Stroke Survivor to Scholar

The following article was written for UCF Today News and is shared with permission. Johnson Scholarship Foundation works in partnership with the Student Accessibility Services office at UCF and all the schools in the State University System of Florida to provide scholarships to students with disabilities. 

In her final semester at UCF, Alex Dixon was finally able to complete a task that most college students take for granted: reading a textbook on her own. For the graduating early childhood development and education major, walking across the stage for commencement with her peers this summer seemed like it would take a miracle a decade ago, instead of her consistent hard work.

When Dixon was 10 she caught pneumonia, which triggered a rare malfunction that caused her brain to start attacking her body. She recovered from the infection, but continued to battle pain, muscle spasms, contortions and loss of function for two years as she visited specialists around the country who could not figure out what was wrong. By the time she entered sixth grade she started to use a wheelchair. At 12, she underwent a deep brain stimulation procedure as a last hope to find a solution, but while she was anesthetized she had a stroke.

“It was incredibly frightening,” says Juli, Dixon’s mother and a professor of mathematics education at UCF since 2000. “The stroke damaged the part of her brain that was killing her, but there was quite a bit of collateral damage as well. As she was coming out of her coma, we were told she might be in a vegetative state. It’s been very slow progress over time, but she returned.”

Alex Dixon holds her graduation mortarboard bearing the words "teachers change the world" and "class of 2021."That collateral damage includes being partially paralyzed on her right side and legally blind — able to see only half of anything straight on. Before Dixon became ill, she was a happy, healthy child who took gifted classes, played piano, loved art and wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up. After her stroke, she had to relearn every aspect of her life, from normal bodily functions and academics to who she even was. It was in that relearning process that Dixon found an interest in teaching.

“I want to work in a preschool setting with students with and without disabilities and special needs, hopefully in an inclusive setting,” Dixon says. “The first few years of life are so valuable to build a base of the education and play so kids are excited about learning and develop the positive mindset toward it that will help them persevere later on.”

With the support of her family and her own determination to improve, she slowly regained functions such as walking, talking, and completing schoolwork. Throughout middle school and high school she had an aide help her get to and from classes and help her complete her assignments. When Dixon came to UCF in 2016, she no longer needed an aide, but throughout her time here she’s used Student Accessibility Services for support.

“They helped me be as independent as possible,” Dixon says. “I still had trouble reading in the beginning and even now sometimes, so they gave me different technology, like reading software on my computer. They helped me get a notetaker and smart pen to capture what my professors were saying, a reader for tests and extra time if I needed it. It gave me the opportunity to show what I knew because I had the resources.”

Read the rest of Alex Dixon’s story at UCF Today.


Nicole Dudenhoefer is a content producer for UCF Marketing and a 2017 journalism graduate of UCF.

Leaders of Tomorrow: How a Virtual Speaker Series at Pathways Winnipeg is Empowering Youth

This article first appeared on the website of our grantee partner Pathways to Education Canada. It is shared with permission. 

When students see themselves represented in role models, it helps to shape their self-belief and exposes them to a range of possible career paths—helping them to become the next generation of leaders in their own community and beyond.

Being a role model for youth was one of the reasons Claudette Lavallee wanted to work with young people when she became a Student Parent Support Worker at Pathways Winnipeg.

“I never had a voice when I was younger, and I always wished that I had somebody to support me and advocate for me,” Claudette says.

At Pathways Winnipeg, Claudette delivers relevant programming and one-on-one supports to help students overcome the barriers to education they face.

At the Winnipeg program location, 66 percent of students self-identified as Indigenous during the 2019-2020 school year—making representation of Indigenous role models essential for the youth they serve.

Last year, when social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic kept youth at home, Claudette wanted to find a way to help students cope with the anxiousness many reported feeling by creating a safe and welcoming setting virtually.

“We were trying different things to keep them involved—they were in a new environment online, but we wanted them to be able to talk with other people, to see other people.”

Claudette invited Shanley Spence—an Indigenous community advocate and public speaker—to give a virtual talk. Shanley shared how she dealt with her own anxiousness and extreme shyness growing up and gave tips on how to feel more confident.

“The students loved it. They really enjoyed her talk,” says Claudette. “I got lots of good feedback from the students and from parents and guardians as well.”

With the students engaged, Claudette began organizing weekly virtual talks with other prominent Indigenous figures, including sports team coaches, political representatives, and business leaders—all of whom had overcome their own adversities on their path to success.

Claudette also hopes to empower more students with different life experiences through the speaker series.

“We have a lot of newcomer students in the program so I’m lining up a few guest speakers who can share their experience of being a newcomer to Canada,” says Claudette.

She believes that initiatives like this speaker series are setting young people up for success by introducing them to a variety of positive role models.

“I think everybody should have somebody to look up to. Having a person there to guide you is so important, it changes people’s lives.”


Pathways to Education provides youth from low-income communities with the resources they need to graduate from high school and break the cycle of poverty.

Johnson Scholars Program Helps 110 from Class of 2021 Go to College

The Johnson Scholars Program of the School District of Palm Beach County is celebrating its 110 graduates of the class of 2021 who earned scholarships as a jumpstart to their post-secondary careers.  This year 100 percent of the program’s seniors will graduate with a guaranteed 2-Year Florida Prepaid Scholarship.  Each also accomplished 100 percent completion of their College Readiness Portfolios, successfully earning their college readiness graduation cords.

Working with Take Stock in Children (TSIC) in providing more than 500 students with college readiness, mentorship, and social emotional support has exposed many of our students to further opportunities to ensure access to their post-secondary dreams of attending a college or university.  TSIC boasts providing this year’s class of graduates with nearly $1 million in scholarships. Many top scholars throughout Palm Beach County of the Johnson Scholars Program and Take Stock in Children collaboration earned prestigious scholarship awards, including the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship, George Snow Scholarship, FAU’s Kelly/Strul Scholarship, TeamWork Education Foundation, Leaders 4 Life, QuestBridge, Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, and Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarships.  The Johnson Scholars Program and Take Stock in Children will continue to support these scholars as they work toward completion of their post-secondary education.

We congratulate all of our scholars from the Class of 2021!

Dustin LaPlatte

Florida Bright Futures recipients: Katherine Benedetti, Boca Raton High School, attending Valencia College; Chanelle Brown, John I. Leonard High School, attending Palm Beach State College; Daniel Dorvil, FAU High School, attending Florida Atlantic University; Ysabel Fierro, Santaluces High School, attending Florida International University; Antoine Garvey, Atlantic High School, attending Florida Atlantic University; Dustin LaPlatte, Jupiter High School, attending University of Florida; Melanie Rivera, Jupiter High School, attending Florida State University; Robertha Sainvil, Palm Beach Gardens High School, attending Florida International University; Varun Toot, Forest Hill High School, attending Nova Southeastern University; Valeria Urrego-Hernandez, Jupiter High School, attending University of Florida.

Hana Ali

Community Foundation Scholarship  recipients: Hana Ali, Lake Worth High School, attending University of Florida, Itzel Diez,  Glades Central High School, attending Florida State University; Annabelle Garcia, Lake Worth High School, attending Palm Beach State College; Osinachi Nwosu, Lake Worth High School, attending University of Chicago; Micaela Miguel Ramirez, Lake Worth High School, attending University of Florida; Khurram Shams, Lake Worth High School, attending University of Florida.

Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship recipients of the University of Florida: Hana Ali, Lake Worth High School; Dustin LaPlatte, Jupiter High School; Khurram Shams, Lake Worth High School; Valeria Urrego-Hernandez, Jupiter High School.

George Snow Scholarship recipient: Rebecca Siverain, Pahokee High School, attending Lindenwood University.

Rebecca Siverain

Take Stock in Children Leaders 4 Life Scholarship and Quest Bridge Scholarship recipient: Jasmine Calderon, Pahokee High School, attending Emory University.

Team Work Education Foundation Scholarship recipients: Gerardo Albor, Glades Central High School, attending Palm Beach State College; Hana Ali, Lake Worth High School, attending University of Florida; Dustin LaPlatte, Jupiter High School, attending University of Florida; Macaela Miguel Rameriz, Lake Worth High School, attending Florida State University; Pamela Perez, Pahokee High School, attending Palm Beach State College; Jason Sargento-Guzman, Lake Worth High School, attending University of North Florida; Varun Toot, Forest Hill High School, attending Nova Southeastern University.

Victoria Armand

Florida Atlantic University Kelly/Strul Scholarship recipient: Victoria Armand, Santaluces High School, attending Florida Atlantic University.

 


Gbolade George is a Resource Teacher with the School District of Palm Beach County’s Johnson Scholars/Take Stock program.

Behind JSF’s Mandate of Service: The Individuals Who Serve

She was too choked up to talk. I couldn’t see her face because I was sitting behind her on the stage. I really wasn’t sure if she would stand at the podium in silence, fighting to catch her breath or ramble for ten minutes. Either way it wouldn’t matter. She had the undivided attention of everyone. It was not for the promise of an inspiring message, nor the VIP status bestowed on her at the event. Neither the highest-ranking public official nor the gifted keynote speaker would come close to garnering the focus of the students in the audience as she would. She commanded the grateful reverence of those in attendance because of the genuine relationships she had built with them over the years, and you could see it on their faces.

a woman standing at a lectern with a man in the background behind her

Wanda Kirby, who is retiring from the Palm Beach County School District, receives a hand with lowering her microphone from colleague Gbolade George during the Johnson Scholars/Take Stock in Children graduation ceremony earlier this month in suburban West Palm Beach, Florida. Photos by Coastal Click Photography.

Wanda Kirby had served these disadvantaged high school students through the Palm Beach County School District’s Johnson Scholars/Take Stock in Children Program, and many of them had reached this graduation milestone because of her work. Tonight, she was retiring.

Foundation work can sometimes feel removed from the people we serve. The stewardship of our organization through committee service, letters of inquiry, applications and reports does not directly connect us to the individuals we serve … but the Wandas do.

It’s a common denominator we find in many of our grantee partners – individuals whose personal investment is almost immeasurable, except in terms of graduations, college acceptances, job offers, and personal growth of the young people they’ve assisted.

I think of Dr. Leslie Pendleton, who leads University of Florida’s first-generation student success program. She knew that first-generation students needed guidance not for their academics but for life outside the classroom.

Paul J. Adams III, executive chairman and founder of Providence St. Mel School, says “It’s not rocket science” about the success of the 42-year-old school on Chicago’s west side. Maybe not rocket science, but an undying commitment to high expectations, accountability, strong curriculum and good instruction.

J. Curtis Warner, Jr., was the founder and architect of the Berklee College of Music City Music Program. The program brings inner-city middle and high school students from Boston to Berklee for a collegiate experience and mentoring. The program is now being replicated around the country.

Our partnerships with grantees link us to the people we serve. Our work is most effective and fulfilling when we view it through the lens of that service to people.

The work of Wanda Kirby, Leslie Pendleton, Paul J. Adams III, J. Curtis Warner, Jr. and so many others reflects JSF’s mandate of serving disadvantaged people at its best. In the JSF family, we have all had the experience of seeing first-hand the fruit of that service.


Bobby Krause is CEO of Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

The Importance of Professional Development Opportunities Outside the Classroom

The following article first appeared on the website of Dalhousie University’s Global Health Office, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. It is shared here with permission. 

As a first-year speech-language pathology student, I appreciate finding different ways to learn more about the profession outside of the classroom. This year I was able to become a student with Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC). As a student associate, I am able to access a vast collection of resources related to the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology. These resources include professional development events, access to journals, and supplies for developing advocacy.

I had the privilege to attend my first professional development event on World Hearing Day (March 3). As speech-language pathologists often work closely with audiologists to assist clients, these types of opportunities allow me to gain insight into the profession. The webinar, Starting the Conversation: What the WHO World Report on Hearing Means for Canada, highlighted the importance of advocating for the hearing screening of infants, school-age children, and adults. The information shared by the presenters gave me a better understanding of the services provided by audiologists and why individuals should have their hearing checked at different phases of their lives.

With the school semester recently coming to an end, I look forward to continuing to educate myself on topics relevant to the speech-language pathology and audiology fields through events hosted by SAC. As May is Speech and Hearing Month in Canada, I hope to participate in many more opportunities that will enhance my understanding of communication health.

Finally, I can’t wait to eventually go to a SAC event in person! I am hopeful that I will be able to attend next year’s Speech-Language Pathology Conference in Vancouver, BC. This occasion would be an amazing opportunity to network and learn more about the current research pertaining to the field.

Thank you to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and the Global Health Office for helping me access professional development opportunities as I continue my studies. For more information on these opportunities please visit the Global Health Office Diversity website.


Halle Loyek is a student in the Dalhousie University School of Communication Sciences and Disorders studying Speech-Language Pathology. She is from Red Deer, Alberta.

Valedictorian: Grateful for the Experience of Having Failed

Hana Ali is a Johnson Take Stock Program participant graduating this spring as Valedictorian of Lake Worth Community High School. On her way to attending the University of Florida, she’s picked up numerous scholarships, including awards from the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Teamwork USA, and the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars. She wrote this personal statement as part of the Johnson Take Stock Program.

I slid down so far that my legs were not even on the chair anymore. My heart pounded wildly. The minute hand moved at the pace of a snail. I was in science class, and I was in shock. I had just failed my assessment. I could barely comprehend the idea of failing because I had always done well in school. Growing up in my Caribbean household, academic success was a necessity so I could go to college, which is something my parents had not been able to do. At first, I felt that failure was a catastrophe that would hurt my parents and meant I was not cut-out for a career as a physician. I was going to throw it all away.

My parents always instilled in me and my siblings that although we did not have a lot, there were always others going through worse than us. Giving back was necessary to balance our blessings. When I was young, my mother took me to volunteer at local food drives. I loved the feeling of helping people and knew I wanted to continue doing it as I grew up. I wanted to go to medical school to be a physician, but this failure started to make me question my capability. My self-confidence plummeted and I began to reassess my career path. I kept thinking that failure was like an eternal red light, but it was actually just a stop sign, a momentary setback that would ultimately push me to try harder and gain confidence in myself.

My drive to be a physician was enough to motivate me to do everything I could to recover my grade in science and find ways to prevent such a failure in the future. Over the next three years, I became a sponge and absorbed as much information during class as I could. Instead of counting the seconds until class would be over, I paid attention, took notes, and stayed engaged. I began to see my work pay off and did dramatically better. I regained my confidence and motivation, and with my renewed drive, started seeking more opportunities: I started volunteering at a local hospital.

On my first day, I delivered a dozen bubblegum pink Minnie Mouse balloons to a little girl in the pediatric ward who was having surgery that afternoon. As I entered the girl’s room, her eyes instantly lit up. She was so excited by the balloons that her surgery felt less significant to her. I imagined how much more rewarding it would be to be her doctor and build a rapport with her while also helping to keep her healthy. During this volunteering experience, I discovered I wanted to specialize in pediatrics and was so grateful I did not give up on my aspiration because of one failure.

Her smile solidified all that I had been working towards after that first failed assessment. It gave me flashbacks to my childhood, giving out food with my mom and the happiness I felt helping others. I realized the failure was just a bump in the road and that I could become a physician if I did not allow failures to discourage me. Without having failed and recovered, I would not have the kind of resilience and self-efficacy I have today, and I would never get to be the great and caring physician I know I will become. My new outlook will give me the confidence to overcome life’s obstacles, so looking back, I am grateful for the experience of having failed.


 

What is Speech-Language Therapy, and Who Can Benefit From It?

This article first appeared on Groves Academy’s website, and is shared with permission. Groves Academy is a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. 

 

“But my child talks just fine…” is often the response I get from parents when I first recommend that they have their student participate in a speech/language assessment. This is such a common misconception, but the truth is, speech is such a small part of what we focus on in speech-language therapy.

At Groves, it’s really the LANGUAGE part of speech-language therapy that our students need. We work with students from Groves Academy and from our community who are diagnosed with specific learning disorders, ADHD/Executive Functioning deficits, or often both. Our goals with students target reading comprehension, vocabulary development, sentence structure/grammar, telling narratives, writing, etc. BUT, before we can target any of those skills, we have to target executive functioning. Executive functioning is, after all, foundational to learning.

In order to learn, students need to be able to attend to the material, organize their ideas, plan ahead, manage their time, be flexible when plans need to change, and be able to reflect on their work to continue to improve. Speech-language therapy at Groves always includes an executive functioning component, as all students, even those without a diagnosed disorder, have difficulty with executive functioning because that part of the brain does not fully develop until adulthood.

Understanding language (both spoken and written) and expressing oneself are also huge keys to success in academic (and really all) environments. Language is involved in every part of a student’s day from following directions during gym class, solving word problems in math, communicating with peers at lunch and recess, writing a paper for social studies or reading the instructions for a project in art class. If a student has a hard time understanding spoken language or expressing themselves effectively, it will affect all parts of their day.

If your student experiences any of the following difficulties, it may be helpful to have them assessed by a speech-language pathologist:

Read more here. 


Meghan Miller is Director of Speech-Language Pathology at Groves Academy