Like most first year students, Nichole had a bit of trouble finding her footing at the beginning of her Vanderbilt career. With all the new and exciting extracurricular ventures to explore, she wanted to get involved with everything but feared that she would overstretch herself. With the help of wonderful peer mentors inside and outside of the Ingram Scholar community, Nichole began to hone in her service interests and found two issues about which she was truly passionate: community health disparities and food insecurity. Through her involvement with campus organizations such as Vanderbilt Grassroots and Project: BRIDGES, as well as her work with community agencies like Second Harvest Food Bank and the Shade Tree Clinic, she was able to learn more about these two topics that held such relevance in Nashville and find ways to incorporate them both into her academic and service pursuits.
The summer after her first year, Nichole spent two weeks in Haiti –her family’s country of origin– and was fortunate enough to shadow at a mobile clinic based in the city of Titanyen. This experience allowed her to learn more not only about her family background, but also about the stark disparities in healthcare access that exist along racial and socioeconomic lines both domestically and globally.
Although she saw the extreme value in global health work, Nichole wanted to take what she learned abroad and apply it in a sustainable way to the Nashville community. Thus, during her sophomore year, she became involved with The New Beginnings Center (TNBC) –a non-profit organization that provides nutrition, fitness, and self-actualization lessons to women from low income households. She also worked as a member of the Vanderbilt NAACP Political Activism Committee to spark campus discussion about issues of racism, privilege, and allyship. Despite these new involvements, Nichole wanted to remain active in the groups she joined during her first year. She served as an executive board member for Vanderbilt Grassroots, leading weekly dinner serving shifts at Nashville Rescue Mission and acting as the interim vice president for a semester.
During the summer of 2015, Nichole will continue her work at TNBC, developing a sustainable plan for partnership with other Nashville agencies and recruiting women for the program. She is incredibly excited to serve as the president of Grassroots for the 2015-16 academic year, and to work with the rest of the group’s board and general body to raise her peers’ awareness of and engagement in issues of food insecurity, homelessness, and empowerment of marginalized communities.
After Vanderbilt, Nichole hopes to attend medical school and work as a community health-minded physician. She remains inexpressibly grateful for all the opportunities that the Ingram Scholarship Program has afforded her, and is excited to apply all that she has learned –and will continue to learn– to her future career.