Member Profile: Jaeda - Health Career Pathways Intern

I’ve been working at GCYC since I was a first year at Gary Comer College Prep and now I’m a first year student at Northern Illinois University. I grew up in Greater Grand Crossing, have one younger brother and an older sister who is a registered nurse. My favorite summertime activity is actually work. I don’t like sitting around the house. I enjoy being active and having things to do that keep me busy. I like feeling productive.

What I enjoy most about GCYC are the people. Especially the instructors like Ms. Natasha and Ms. Lawren. They are good listeners. If I am feeling down or just need a companion to get something off my chest, they are always there for me with good advice to help me solve any issue. I’m usually pretty quiet, but I feel comfortable enough with them to show my goofy side. They are really nice people to work with and see every day at the youth center. I also really enjoy the community events like the Block Party and the food you serve here for members and staff. I also like that it is the home of the Drill Team as well. They are so talented.

When I first came here, I didn’t speak up for myself. The youth center has really helped me speak up for myself. I’m soft spoken, but now I’m more comfortable speaking my mind and sharing my opinions with other teens and co-workers. It feels good to speak up and be heard especially with people who are older than me that I’m meeting for the first time.

The skills that I’ve improved are my communication and people skills. Before, if I was in a room full of people, I would probably be the quietest one, but now I’m comfortable meeting new people. You don’t know what doors are going to open up for you if you speak up and put yourself out there. Now I’ll even start a conversation with someone I’m just meeting. I would have never done that before coming to GCYC.

I started out as a Green Teen and then I moved up to become an assistant for Ms. Lawren joined Career Pathways and then worked directly for Ms. Fredi, the Co-center director. In life you want to keep moving up. You don’t want to stay in the same job for a really long time. I’ve enjoyed learning new skills and each step I’ve taken has made me a better person. I’ve learned and done so many things here from gardening, nursing, dissecting a pig, so many things. I even got my CPR license which is an important skill to have because you never know when you may need to save someone’s life.

It was really cool going to the UChicago Simulation Center to learn there are all these people who are focused on saving lives! Most people don’t know CPR, but that little piece of knowledge gives you the power to save a life. I didn’t realize that CPR for babies is so much different than for an adult. I’ve learn so much through the Health Career Pathways like how to measure someone’s blood pressure, read a person’s BMI, and how to take better care of your health and your family's health. Even if I don’t want to be a doctor or a nurse like my sister, now I know what to do when someone is having an asthma attack, an allergic reaction, or I can help someone who is choking. I could be their last hope and it feels good to have the ability to literally save someone else.

I want to become a psychologist or a therapist I am more into the human mind over the body. I like to understand why people do the things they do. I’m studying about bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental issues. I’ve always been the one people come to for advice. I’m an observer and am good at reading people. Once I took a psychology class at Gary Comer College Prep I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I’m a “Psych” major at NIU now and hope I can get my degree and then my master's in developmental psychology and maybe even go further… wherever live is going to take me. There are not many black psychologists or therapists and we don’t talk about mental illness much. I want to help change that.

I think others should join the Health Pathways program not only to learn all these skills, but it will help you figure out what you actually want to do. There are so many more careers in health besides being a doctor, you can be an EMT, an ambulance driver, or a paramedic. There are so many options most young people don’t know about yet.

My advice to the next person who takes my place to try new things, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, and take different, unexpected paths or turns on your journey. You want to have all kinds of knowledge and skills so you can get any job you want. Sometimes it can be in a whole different field. And lastly, you are going to have setbacks. It’s not going to be easy, but try to use the challenges as an opportunity to explore and grow as a person. You are the only one who can truly know what you want to do…so go out and do it!