Surrounded by a sick and hurting nation, future doctors and nurses are bidding farewell to their high schools and Boys & Girls Clubs to embark on college educations that will help them heal bodies, minds and hearts.
Graduating seniors – many who are coping with news that their parents and grandparents won’t cheer them as they walk across a stage and receive a diploma – are eager to work toward their next education milestone. Some Boys & Girls Club teens say the COVID-19 pandemic motivates them even more to pursue careers in healthcare. They want to return to the world the goodness and kindness that has been given to them by countless Club staff, teachers and mentors who helped them reach high school graduation.
Here are their stories.
Sergio H. – Future Adolescent Psychiatrist
Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County
As a first-generation American, Sergio ponders whether better access to healthcare would have helped his mental health as a child. Sergio and his mother lived in and out of homelessness in Oklahoma City and his father was absent. Sometimes, they lacked basic necessities.
Sergio’s resilience led him to an accomplished high school tenure. He founded his school’s track team, served as president of Keystone Club
, a leadership program for Boys & Girls Club teens, and was named Youth of the Year
Now part-time staff member for Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County, Sergio wants to become an adolescent psychiatrist so he can provide care for underserved youth. He fears that children’s mental health is suffering during the COVID-19 global health crisis, and that even more families will struggle to afford treatment because of the pandemic’s economic repercussions.
Sergio also reflects on the mental health of incarcerated individuals, many of whom are seeing their fellow inmates sick or dying of COVID-19 and fearing they may be the next victim. Once becoming a doctor, Sergio also envisions he could work in a prison system.
“I want to be able to do so many things and help so many people all at the same time,” Sergio said.
Sergio’s mother, who wanted to be a doctor before immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico, has inspired him to reach his goals. His Club mentor, Stephanie, continuously encouraged him to attend college especially when Sergio thought his family finances precluded him from the opportunity.
In a virtual ceremony, Sergio will graduate from the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at his high school. He will study biology at Oklahoma City University this fall on a full-tuition scholarship. The four-year institution was the first college Sergio ever visited when his Boys & Girls Club took him on a tour in sixth grade.
“I’m ready to get back to school, knock out four years of college and then medical school, so I’ll be on my way to helping people,” he said.
Dezneaire B. – Future Nurse
Boys & Girls Clubs of Albany
Dezneaire has become all too familiar with the critical need for nurses to serve on the frontlines during a crisis. Her hometown of Albany, Georgia became an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranking along with New York City for most deaths per capita.
The graduating senior and aspiring nurse gets nervous when her mother reports to work as a deputy sheriff, not knowing if she’s encountering someone with the disease. When a close family friend was diagnosed with COVID-19, the news sent a shock to Dezneaire.
She knows that healthcare workers have been at risk of contracting the disease, yet she’s more determined and committed to becoming a nurse.
“It makes me want to be a nurse even more than before. We need good healthcare,” she said.
With support from her Boys & Girls Club, Dezneaire has already made significant steps toward her nursing education. She’s graduating from Monroe High School with a dual technical degree in basic healthcare from Albany Technical College. Next, she will work on a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Albany State University.
While exploring the nursing field, Dezneaire worked in a nursing home, providing basic care for patients and changing bed linens. Her concern for elder neglect and abuse has inspired her to pursue forensic nursing, a field that specializes in caring for patients who are victims of trauma, violence and abuse and providing evidence for criminal investigations.
Dezneaire also knows that nurses have become like family to some elderly, isolated in nursing homes who cannot have visitors to help prevent spread of COVID-19. She credits the Boys & Girls Club with teaching her to treat others with compassion, an important trait she will need as a nurse.
“Everyone should receive quality healthcare because everyone on this earth was brought here for a purpose,” she said.
Destiny Z. – Future Nurse
Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows
Risks posed to healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic have led Nevada high school senior Destiny to give second thought to her career aspiration of working in a hospital. Nursing remains her top career choice, but she’s considering whether caring for kids at a school would be a safer option.
Destiny lives with asthma and several of her family members have health conditions. She has seen firsthand the power of medicine in helping her family, but also knows that individuals in her Hispanic community sometimes avoid seeking medical treatment because they lack insurance or for other reasons.
“I want to be an inspiration to my community. I’ve always wanted to help people ever since I was little,” Destiny said.
Destiny, the Youth of the Year representing Nevada, participated in a specialized health and science curriculum during high school. She is leaning toward attending University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. As a first-generation college student, her Boys & Girls Club has helped her prioritize scholarship requests to finance her education.
Although she is disappointed that the health crisis has disrupted the end of her senior year, Destiny knows that staying home can save lives. She’s remaining positive, seizing the opportunity to spend time with family and working with her Club to create care packages for youth in need.
Help the Class of 2020 Celebrate
Graduation may look different this year, but it is not cancelled for all the Club seniors who’ve beaten the odds to get here. As we continue to help make graduation possible for more kids, help celebrate this year’s graduates by signing their graduation card.