Forest entered Vanderbilt University and the Ingram Scholarship Program eager to utilize and expand his passions for children’s healthcare, refugees and youth development. He began teaching science lessons at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and Edgehill Middle School through Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science (VSVS) within his first weeks on campus, and soon joined Project: Bridges, a student organization that paired him with a Congolese Refugee family that had recently resettled in Nashville. The latter experience sparked an interest in Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE), one of Nashville’s largest refugee-resettlement organizations. He became a Health Navigator Intern at the organization during second semester; responsible for generating and teaching a fifteen-topic health and wellness curriculum to Nashville’s new arrivals to enable them to successfully take control of their quality of life. He also visited clients’ homes to collect and enroll families in programs that provided access to nutrition classes, exercise opportunities, and initiatives intended to boost all aspects of health.
In addition to service in Nashville, Forest continued to lead and develop Operation 5, an organization he founded during his senior year in High School to empower impoverished children in the Republic of Georgia through education, job training and youth development initiatives. He has worked closely with partners at the YMCA of Tbilisi, Georgia to develop initiatives aimed at equipping over thirty children to exit the cycle of poverty. His fundraising efforts will enable the children to receive English classes starting in September, with vocational training and computer literacy programs expected to launch within the next year.
During the summer after his freshman year, Forest attended the YMCA Blue Ridge Leaders’ School, a weeklong YMCA conference he had been planning with a committee of YMCA staff and seven of his peers for the entire year. This summer’s conference attracted a record 830 YMCA teens and staff from around the Eastern United States. Forest served as an “Honor Leader” at the conference, and taught classes on Group Dynamics, Leadership Theory, YMCA History and Physical Fitness. He also accepted an internship with the Atlanta-based GivingPoint Foundation, which is dedicated to developing teens into young social entrepreneurs.
Forest returns to campus eager to enhance his perspective on the social challenges that vulnerable children and refugees are facing in Nashville.