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Ronald McDonald House Charities of SoCal Celebrates Three Young Leaders for Black History Month

(from left to right) Lashyra Nolen, Thomas Watkins, and Lorissa Payne

(from left to right) Lashyra Nolen, Thomas Watkins, and Lorissa Payne

LOS ANGELES, CA- What does it take to be a leader? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great orator, Muhammad Ali was a fighter in and out of the ring, and aviator Bessie Coleman was as determined as they come. One thing they had in common was their affinity for leadership which was apparent at an early age.  Today, three stellar scholars from Ronald McDonald House Charities®/African American Future Achievers (RMHC/AAFA) scholarship program are emerging as young leaders in their communities and on their college campuses as well. The scholarship program is hosted locally by Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southern California (RMHCSC) and supported by the fundraising efforts of local McDonald’s owner/operators and corporate staff.  Each of these students have drawn inspiration from leaders of the past, while they start to build their own ideas of what it takes to become a leader today.

Lashyra Nolen

Lashyra Nolen

LaShyra Nolen, a sophomore Health and Human Science major at Loyola Marymont University (LMU), believes being a leader means being bold and being prepared to act so the voices you serve are heard. She plans to do just that as a Clinton Global Initiative Student innovator, a program that provides support for undergraduate students who are developing new solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. Her plan is to create a five-week health program in the Riverside and San Bernardino communities that help families set healthy trends.

Nolen says the RMHC/AAFA program gave her confidence. “The fact that such an organization saw me fit to represent them showed me that I have people who believe in me,” says Nolen. “I asked myself, why can’t I be successful and do well in college too?” Doing “well” is an understatement for Nolen who serves her campus as a student senator, resident hall advisor, and member of LMU’s Belles Service Organization.

The aspiring doctor, who is from Rancho Cucamonga, says her drive and passion for her community was inspired by her mother. She received two college degrees while taking care of Nolen and her little brother as a single mother. “Everything I am doing all goes back to giving back and using my strength to help others.”

Thomas Watkins

Thomas Watkins

Thomas Watkins was selected as a RMHC/AAFA recipient in 2013 and has since partnered with RMHCSC to talk with students about reaching their goals and the importance of pursuing college. A Corona native majoring in Hotel and Restaurant Management at California Polytechnic State University in Pomona, Watkins believes a leader has to know how to command attention through communication. “A leader could be anyone, from any walk of life,” says Watkins. “They could talk to the CEO of a company, and also connect with a kindergartener with no problem.”

As an aspiring restauranteur, Watkins hopes to continue connecting with his community. He believes food is the one thing that can put a smile on anyone’s face. “I want to help my community by creating programs that teach kids how to cook as an outlet for them,” he says.

Lorissa Payne

Lorissa Payne

Biola University student, Lorissa Payne, began thinking of ways she could become a leader in high school. The freshman English major noticed she had the gift of writing and challenged herself by taking advanced placement classes which led her to be selected to the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola. The institute spurs students to take a deeper dive into Western literature and aims to build strong, Christian leaders.

“Writing is a primary form of communication and if students can’t express themselves through writing, it is a detriment to one’s future,” says Payne. She aspires to work in education and believes leadership is all about leading by example. “When others see a living example of a leader, it allows them to think they can succeed too,” she says.  She calls former United States Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice her living example. “Reading her biography in high school made me realize we were raised similarly, says Payne. “Her story showed me when people utilize their gifts to help others; they can go much further in life.”

Nolen, Watkins, and Payne are just a few of the 109 students identified each year through the RMHCSC scholarship program. Since 1990, RMHCSC has awarded more than $4.5 million in scholarship funds to local students. It allows students the opportunity to think about their future, makes college attainable and helps students inspire others.  Scholarships are awarded through four programs, including: RMHC /AAFA, RMHC/Asian Pacific American Students Increasing Achievement (ASIA), RMHC/Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources (HACER) and RMHC/Scholars.

For more than 35 years, RMHCSC has been committed to providing comfort, care and support to children and families in Southern California.  RMHCSC is dedicated to creating a community where children and their families embrace life and healing with a sense of hope, enthusiasm, courage and joy by operating six Ronald McDonald Houses, Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms and a Community Grants Board. This year, another 109 student scholars and future leaders from across Southern California will be celebrated during the annual RMHCSC scholarship luncheon that will take place in May.

San Bernardino Boys and Girls Club Hosted Covered California Enrollment Workshop

Community members signing up for affordable health care (Photo by Naomi K. Bonman).

Community members signing up for affordable health care (Photo by Naomi K. Bonman).

SAN BERNARDINO, CA- In an effort to get citizens enrolled in a healthcare plan by the February 15, 2015 deadline, the San Bernardino Boys and Girls Club opened up their doors on Monday, February 2 to host an open enrollment workshop with Covered California. The workshop was held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and guests were able to learn about their healthcare options through a presentation which answered any concerns or questions that they had.

“We are happy to host Covered California, and to provide such a wonderful opportunity to individuals and families in the local community.” Dr. Lolita Lyles, Director of the Operations at the Boys and Girls Club of San Bernardino, stated. “It is essential that members of the economically challenged communities, like San Bernardino, have greater access to affordable health coverage. Our organization promotes healthy lifestyles, and we are happy to take the lead in assisting to improve access to quality coverage, and to improving overall health outcomes in our community.”

Full Circle: How I Discovered a Passion for Public Health

Quiana Lewis

Quiana Lewis

(Quiana Lewis joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2014 as a program associate, working to build a Culture of Health by helping all American residents attain stable, affordable health coverage.)

By Quiana Lewis

I am one of the more than 22,000 alumni whose careers have been shaped and lives changed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP).

For me, medicine was a logical decision: my academic performance in science was good, I liked interacting with people, and I didn’t want to be a lawyer.

Clearly, my perceptions of medicine and careers in health were limited.

Then came my SMDEP summer at UCLA, one of the most transformative experiences of my college education. A pipeline program for students who typically are underrepresented in health care fields, SMDEP exposed me to the study and practice of medicine and dentistry that enriched my understanding for both fields. I shadowed physicians, received enrichment in core science subjects, and learned how to excel in medical and dental school. I also received hands-on laboratory experience to create dental models and conducted health screenings at community fairs.

The unexpected lessons from the program, however, were the ones that stuck with me most.

The core science classes were structured using case-based learning methods. This was a departure from the didactic way I was used to learning science. The curriculum used patient case studies to teach biology, anatomy, and physiology. The lessons were investigative in nature and discussion-based. We discussed not only patients’ medical issues, but also the socioeconomic factors affecting them. This piqued my interest. Until then, I had not thought deeply about the impact of systems on the health of individuals. Throughout that summer, I read books and journal articles about the social determinants of health, medical anthropology, and epidemiology. The more I read, the more questions I posed, and the more I realized this was the career path for me.

After SMDEP, I continued to explore the vast world of public health at school and in subsequent summer programs. I graduated from Fisk University, and went on to obtain a master’s degree in public health from Yale University. Since graduate school, I have worked in state and local health departments, community organizations, and health consulting firms.

My public health journey has come full circle. I discovered my passion for population health with the help of RWJF, by way of SMDEP. Now, as an RWJF employee, I work with the Foundation to build a Culture of Health across the nation.

Without SMDEP, I might never have discovered my passion.


 

SMDEP is currently recruiting for its 2015 summer program through March 1, at 12 sites across the country, including Case Western Reserve University, Columbia University, Duke University, Howard University, Rutgers University, University of Texas, UCLA, University of Louisville, University of Nebraska, University of Virginia, University of Washington, and Yale University.

For more information, visit http://smdep.org/apply-to-smdep/