Jessica’s mother had been diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer and was told by doctors her chances of survival were slim. The mother of three has been in remission for the past four years, but Jessica’s decision to pursue a career in medicine was made during the years she watched her mom battle the disease.
“Watching her undergo her struggles with cancer definitely motivated me to pursue medical science and technology because as a child it’s a shock and you’re frustrated and you don’t really know what’s going on,” Jessica said. “I’m hopeful that I will be able to help others with what I’ve experienced.”
The 18-year-old, one of Camarillo High’s 11 valedictorians to graduate June 14, will take the next big step toward becoming a doctor with the help of a full-tuition scholarship to Tulane University in New Orleans.
Jessica’s scholarship is through the New York-based Posse Foundation, a national nonprofit organization with offices in Los Angeles and throughout the country. The foundation recruits student leaders from public high schools to form multicultural support teams at universities throughout the U.S.
The Posse Foundation forms groups of 10 students from one region to send to a university together as a support group, or “posse.” Which is how Jessica has already met some of the students she’ll attend Tulane with in the fall.
Deborah Bial, president and founder of the Posse Foundation, said the students meet regularly during their senior year to discuss social issues and form a bond before college.
“What we discovered was that many of these students stand a better chance of thriving at elite colleges when supported by similarly motivated peers from their region,” Bial said. “And when cohort members are selected on the basis of not only academic potential but also leadership ability, what you get is an extraordinary group of campus student leaders.”
The Posse Foundation also matches students with a tenured professor, who mentors the students during their freshman and sophomore years of college.
“The Posse mentoring model is critical to the success of the program,” Bial said. “Mentors provide guidance, helping scholars successfully adjust to the academic rigors and social complexities of college.
Jessica said she has enjoyed the opportunity to connect with her college peers through the foundation.
“I’ve gotten very close to the nine other people who will be attending Tulane with me, and that will be a huge consolation because I will have them with me when I start school,” Jessica said. “It’s an awesome way to expand, network and grow friendships.”
The Posse Foundation partners with 45 colleges and universities nationwide to award four-year scholarships.
Posse received close to 15,000 nominations for 640 scholarship slots this year.
Jessica applied for the scholarship and underwent three interviews during her freshman year. She was selected because she maintained a 4.5 GPA and participated in many extracurricular activities while at Camarillo High.
In addition to receiving a Posse scholarship, Jessica was recently named a National Merit Scholar, an award which will provide her with an additional $2,000 a year while attending Tulane.
Jessica said she looks forward to the opportunities that await her in New Orleans.
“l think it will be very fun and different to attend school in New Orleans and challenge myself and who I am by attending a school in a completely different environment,” she said.