Category Archives: Living Learning Experiences

Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellow

Written by: Brice Bowrey, Junior EC Scholar

I had the pleasure of travelling to Nashville, Tennessee on Nov. 15, 2018 as a Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellow. This trip was the apotheosis of the work myself and several other Fellows completed for the last six months. During that time, we laid the groundwork for a large tobacco awareness campaign in the city of Nashville. This campaign was to be conducted among five high schools in the city and designed to further the Truth Initiative’s goal of, “inspiring tobacco-free lives and building a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.”

While this is a laudable goal, I quickly realized it is much easier said than done. The process of recruiting high schools and high school students to be part of the campaign was arduous and riddled with rejection. Creating campaign activities involved the writing, rewriting and re-rewriting of our various ideas, only to realize that some legal or regulatory restriction made the concept completely unworkable. Adequately communicating and coordinating with my teammates and other branches of the Truth Initiative was, at times, nearly impossible. Nonetheless, my team and I persevered.

Upon arriving in Nashville I was fully equipped with determination and the communication, technical and leadership skills I had acquired while preparing for the campaign. After catching up with my teammates, we began the final preparations for the “Weekend Retreat” we would conduct. This Retreat was essentially a training day for the high school students that agreed to implement the campaign in their schools. We were to teach them about tobacco control issues, such as menthol and big tobacco’s predatory advertising practices, as well as equip them with the skills necessary to enact the campaign activities we planned. We also intended to conduct planning sessions with each school to ensure that the students left the Retreat with a basic implementation strategy they could flesh out independently.

As someone who was never particularly extroverted or comfortable with younger people, I began to question my ability to pull this event off. Would I be able to adequately convey information to the students? Would I horrendously botch something in my presentations? Would we be able to adapt the campaign activities to fit the individual needs of each high school? Alas, these concerns were for naught. The students were strikingly mature and intelligent. They were accepting of authority, yet unafraid to express their views and opinions. Despite my original expectations, I found working with these students to be far easier than working with some adults. Unlike many adults, the students possessed a certain creativity and willingness to consider unorthodox solutions. They were willing to learn and adapt. Due to the quality of the students, the Weekend Retreat ran exceptionally smoothly and the breakout planning sessions were highly productive. Perhaps most importantly, the students reported that they enjoyed the day and felt prepared to put their plans into action.

Since the completion of the Weekend Retreat, my team and I have served as advisors to the students involved in the campaign implementation. Their efforts are largely self-sufficient, but we are available to answer any questions and serve as a liaison between the students and the Truth Initiative. Although this was not my first experience in the world of tobacco control, I learned some important lessons. Most notably, my confidence in my ability to work with young adults dramatically increased. I also learned a lot about what it takes to be part of a large, national organization where one must regularly work with people that may be on the other side of the country. I have no doubt these are lessons I will not soon forget. While I don’t intend to pursue this line of work as a career, I have no doubt that being a Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellow has prepared me well for my next foray into the world of tobacco control and public health advocacy.

EC Scholars Provide Service, Reflect on Four-Year Journey

Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, 17 EC Scholars traveled to Charleston, South Carolina where they led a service project at the Ronald McDonald House, connected with East Carolina University alumni and reflected on their four-year journey together.

The annual senior impact trip also included an outing to Fort Sumter to learn more about the history of Charleston.

At the Ronald McDonald House, students cleaned, removed holiday décor, cleaned the food pantry, organized the linen closet and freshened up rooms.

The also painted an elephant face on a pop can tab collector. Ronald McDonald Houses nationwide collect pop tabs as a fundraiser. 

The senior class described their time together as “entertaining, meaningful and rejuvenating,” said Dr. Diana Majewski, assistant director of the EC Scholars, who accompanied the students on the trip along with Dr. Todd Fraley, director of EC Scholars.

To view photos from the trip, visit:

Learning medicine in Nicaragua

By Conor Pumphrey, sophomore EC Scholar and Early Assurance in Medicine

Conor - NicaraguaThe summer following my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Nicaragua with St. James United Methodist Church. Though the team members vary each year, the group has been going to Nicaragua on this trip for over 12 years now. What intrigued me the most about this opportunity was that the trip was focused on providing medical care to the people of remote villages in the mountains. I was already interested in the medical field at this point and after the trip, my idea about wanting to become a physician was completely confirmed. I enjoyed this mission trip because I had the opportunity to do procedures that I would not have been able to do in the states such as testing for hemoglobin levels, glucose levels, taking blood pressure manually and with a machine, and testing for oxygen saturation levels. In addition, I was able to shadow the physicians that lead the trip. I decided to go again this summer because it was such an amazing experience for me.

The mission of the group is to provide basic health care to an impoverished country, especially the communities surrounding the city of Jinotega. The mission trip is one week long and the group has been lodged in the same orphanage every year since the first trip. The first day of this year’s trip was spent preparing for the first clinic that we held at the orphanage. This clinic served the kids at the orphanage, the staff and the surrounding community. Over the next two days, we had a clinic in the mountain villages and this is where I experienced some of the most memorable moments of my trip. One impactful moment was when we saw a man that was in his 80’s come into thNicaragua - Conore clinic wearing extremely dirty clothes with holes all over them. It looked like they had not been changed in weeks and he was wearing a plastic bag to stay dry during the rainy season. The interpreters said that he had walked 2 hours just to come get medical attention. It was amazing to see multiple members of the team give him personal items that they were wearing such as a hat, a raincoat, and clothes that we had at the clinic. Another patient came in with extreme pain in her arm. When we inquired more she said it only hurt when she was carrying buckets of water. The shocking part of the story was that she walks about 6 hours round trip a day to gather water from a stream, carrying several liters of water just to provide for her family.

Nicaragua Group - ConorThis trip not only provided me with great hands-on medical experience, but it was an eye-opening experience to see how the people of Nicaragua live. The people of this country would be blessed to live like the poorest of the people in America, and I think this is something many people would be shocked to witness. All of these reasons are why I love visiting this country and plan on continuing to go for many years to come.

ECU She’s the First Chapter represents at national summit

STFECUgroup“To become powerful, I only need one thing: an education.” One of the visiting She’s the First (STF) Scholars, Carlota from Peru, started her STF Summit presentation with this quote from Malala. What better way to affirm why 200+ high school and college students from around the world came to spend a weekend in the Big Apple? Social media played an integral part in She’s the First’s fifth Annual Campus Leadership Summit.

For the first time, the main stage sessions were livestreamed, and highlight speakers included Devonte Rosero (Magicians Without Borders), Callie Schweitzer (Editor-in-Chief of Motto by Time), and Erin Schrode (youngest person ever to run for Congress). You can watch them (and many more!) here:

NametagThe ECU chapter of She’s the First was well-represented at the Summit this year, with six Executive Board members in attendance, including Co-Presidents (and Honors College seniors) Samantha Gonzalez and Keerthana Velappan. Another first for this year was breakout session tracks: Community Engagement, Global Citizenship, and Leadership Development. From building leadership tool kits to raising awareness about girls’ education on campus to creating videos for social change, all of the sessions proved to be useful in different capacities. And of course, it wouldn’t be She’s the First without a tie-dye cupcake bar! 

The ECU chapter members had a successful year with regards to fundraising, but the highlight of this year’s Summit was something that even they were not expecting. During the Campus Awards Ceremony, STF ECU was presented with the award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Citizenship, one of five awards given that night. They had prioritized global awareness speakers and activities this past year, but as a relatively new chapter, they felt fortunate to have even been nominated. 

STF AwardWrapping up yet another STF Summit, they left with the wise words of another visiting STF Scholar, Angelica from Guatemala, who said, “Be yourself wherever and whenever because you are a rock star; do your best every day, and never give up.”

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