Exploring career opportunities can be overwhelming for youth, but learning to embrace and explore them at a young age through internships and programs, many catch a vision for their futures and are inspired to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world around them.
For Elsie, the opportunity to explore her dreams came through the Digital Skills for Youth program at RochesterWorks. Supported by the RochesterWorks team, Elsie spent six weeks at the University of Rochester Medical Center researching a Healthy Youth Living program for Rochester residents. Learning the value of passion, confidence, and tenacity in a research environment, Elsie was inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare majoring in Biology and Society and minoring in Global Health at Cornell University. Several years later she also won an international internship scholarship to Nigeria. While in Nigeria, Elsie put into practice what she learned at the University of Rochester Medical Center as she researched infant mortality on a global scale and furthered her education in Yoruba (one of the many native dialects in Nigeria).
Elsie’s experiences, along with the passion that she developed through the Digital Skills for Youth program, enabled her to explore opportunities at a young age instilling a passion for medical research that continues to motivate her growth.
Several weeks ago Elsie took the time to reflect on her experiences through the Digital Skills for Youth program and how it has influenced her decisions and her future. Keep reading to learn from her experiences and find out why she encourages other youth to get involved and plan ahead for their careers.
Q: What challenge or situation brought you to RochesterWorks?
A: I found out about RochesterWorks through the Urban League Scholar Program. I came to RochesterWorks because I wanted to gain more hands on medical experience while still in high school to enhance my academic standing as a potential college student for numerous universities.
Q: How did RochesterWorks help you to overcome that challenge?
A: Through the 2010 Digital Skills for Youth program, I was able to intern at the Department of Family Medicine Research Programs at the University of Rochester Medical Center for six weeks over the summer.
Q: Tell me about your experience with the Digital Skills for Youth program.
A: I interned at the Department of Family Medicine Research Programs at the University of Rochester Medical Center where I helped to formulate a possible Healthy Youth Living program for Rochester residents. I did a lot of research on other existing youth health programs and combined it with my own ideas to create a plausible idea for the program. I also interviewed the Greater Rochester YMCA Co-chair about the types of youth programs that the YMCA offers youth. I also interviewed teenagers through the Westside Health Services where we asked them about what they would be interested in a youth oriented healthy living program. Additionally, I helped to create a possible logo for the program. Towards the end of the program I wrote a cumulative report of my ideas and a compilation of my findings and results as well as how to go about initiating and implementing the program officially.
I also learned about the importance of colonoscopies and traveled to clinics to teach Rochester residents about the importance of a colonoscopy, especially after the age of fifty years old. I also got to sit in on important conference calls, volunteer at clinics, shadow doctors, and participate in weekly meetings where I presented the Research team with my findings and initiatives for that week.
Q: Would you recommend this program to other youth?
A: Yes! I definitely would recommend this program to other youth especially if you’re trying to gain professional exposure to possible area of expertise. It’s really a great opportunity that not many high school students receive.
Q: What do you think led to your success during this program?
A: I think being open minded, enthusiastic, passionate, confident, tenacious, and understanding were reasons that I was successful in this program. One’s genuine desire for knowledge, along with a positive spirit, can go a long way.
Q: Since the program, what school and program have you been attending?
A: I graduated from Our Lady of Mercy High School with my high school diploma in 2011. I am currently a junior at Cornell University majoring in Biology and Society (Pre-Med) and minoring in Global Health.
Q: Can you tell me more about your current research experience at Cornell University?
A: I am a Research Assistant at the Robertson Infant Lab at Cornell University. This is my second semester working in this lab and I’m really enjoying it. We are focused on researching the relationship between the body and the mind of infants by trying to understand the relationship between spontaneous eye, attention, and body movements during the third month of infant development.
Q: How did you hear about the Fulbright-Hays GPA Intensive Advanced Yoruba in Nigeria Scholarship with the University of Florida?
A: I heard about this program through my Yoruba teacher. He noticed how quickly I was grasping the language and suggested that I apply to the program in order to become even more fluent in Yoruba as well as have an opportunity for international research initiatives.
Q: What programs were you involved in during your internship in Nigeria?
A: I attended the program this past summer for eight weeks at the University of Ibadan in Ibadan, Nigeria. It was a really eye-opening experience and I learned so much. The group consisted of nine other undergrad and post-grad students from around the United States. We studied Yoruba intensely from Monday to Thursday and went on various excursions throughout Nigeria on the weekends to learn about Nigerian culture and history. Being a native Nigerian, it was really an awesome opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge about my culture and learn new things.
During my free time I also volunteered at the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, Nigeria in the pediatrics department. I loved being able to shadow nurses and doctors as well and learn more about the healthcare system of Nigeria and how it affects its citizens. Towards the end of the program each participant had to present a forty-five minute seminar based on each of our areas of expertise or interest speaking in Yoruba. We also had to write a final ten page paper expounding on what we discussed at our seminar. For my paper I talked about the reasons for child mortality in Nigeria and compared it to the reasons in the United States. I learned that Nigeria has the highest rate of infant mortality in the entire continent of Africa and that children are dying from curable diseases such as diarrhea and measles. This was very shocking for me to find out. However it gave me more motivation to continue to pursue my medical degree in order to help those who are in need and to improve health disparities not only in Nigeria, but on a global scale.
Q: What advice do you have for other youth interested in applying for RochesterWorks programs?
A: This program is exceptional! It will give you an opportunity to experience professional settings and give you an idea of what you may want to be interested in your future. You are the only one in charge of your future. Why not take the initiative and apply for such a life changing and opportunity giving program? I promise you will not regret it.
Q: What is next for you? What are your long-term career goals?
A: Hopefully this summer I will be going to Moshi, Tanzania, through the Cornell Global Health Program for eight weeks! I’m staying focused on graduating and continuing my academic journey. I plan on studying for the MCAT next semester and hopefully applying to Medical Schools or medically inclined programs after graduation. As of now, I am interested in Obstetrician Gynecology and Neonatology. Through the grace of God and the support of my family and friends, I will keep pushing on! Thank you to Digital Skills for Youth for helping me prepare for my future. I am forever grateful!
Click here for more information about RochesterWorks Youth Services or stop by one of our Career Centers to learn more about how we inspire youth to prepare for their futures!