Forest’s philanthropic odyssey began in a small hospital bed during the sixth grade. Hydrocephalus, a neurological disorder that has afflicted him since birth, poised his life on the edge of his surgeon’s scalpel. After two months of fighting for survival, and four operations, Forest left the hospital weak in body, but strong in ambition; his experiences inspired him to one day treat similarly afflicted children to offer his unique perspective to generate hope in his patients where little existed.
After a lengthy recovery, Forest returned to his childhood YMCA, where he first began to convert his passion for children into action. He served as a Counselor-In-Training during the summer before his freshman year of high school, where his maturity and enthusiasm earned his selection for the YMCA’s Leaders’ Club, a unique group of his community’s most motivated, socially conscious high school students. The club’s impact on Forest was immediate; he thrived in the support and guidance of his peers, and soon assisted with monthly child-care events, raised money for under-resourced families in the area and utilized his athletic experience to support the YMCA’s youth soccer program as both a volunteer referee and assistant-coach. He would later serve as the club’s Athletic Coordinator, responsible for training new members to officiate youth soccer, and implement fitness training to encourage active lifestyles, and Vice-President.
The YMCA also enhanced Forest’s keen international awareness; as a freshman, he created a media campaign and facilitated a coat and school supply drive to support a YMCA teen excursion to South Africa. Forest earned his own opportunity to serve abroad two years later on a team sent to the Republic of Georgia to support local childcare program development, counsel teenaged refugees, and most notably meet and entertain children at a severely underfunded orphanage. Forest converted all of the skills he had developed to design and catalyze “Operation 5,” a campaign to raise $10,000 toward the orphans’ medical and educational needs, and he will be spending the weeks preceding his arrival at Vanderbilt University co-leading a new group of teens on a return trip to the Eastern-European country to oversee the changes initiated by his campaign.
Philanthropy has given Forest many key skills and experiences that will undoubtedly help him chase his dream of becoming a pediatric Neurologist. Active service has galvanized an instinctive reaction to socially inequality in both domestic and foreign communities. He is honored to join the ranks of the Ingram Scholars, where he hopes to gain understanding of the Nashville community’s unique needs, and one day convert “Operation 5” into an independent NPO aiding children hailing from under-resourced environments around the world.