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 under the Nashville Refugee Health Initiative at the organization during second semester, where he created a health and wellness curriculum to enable Nashville’s refugees to take an active role in their health and lifestyle. He also visits families each month to complete health assessments, and teaches a monthly healthcare orientation seminar to newly arrived refugees. With the great support of his mentors at NICE, Forest has remained heavily involved with the program throughout his sophomore year, and is constantly looking for ways to enhance the services that NICE provides its clients.
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. The organization is currently fundraising to install running water and electricity in boarding schools in two mountainous states in the northeast.
Forest gained extensive leadership experience from his high school involvement with the YMCA, and in the summer of 2013 he attended the YMCA Blue Ridge Leaders’ School, a week-long YMCA conference he planned 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 understanding on the social challenges that vulnerable children and refugees are facing in Nashville—as the current Service Chair of the Vanderbilt African Student Union, he hopes to help his peers claim Nashville as their own, and learn about the rich cultures that exist just beyond our campus’ borders.