Recent grad Jarolyn Fernandez, a triple major in health studies, communication studies, and Spanish, could not be more prepared, academically, for her dream career as a patient advocate.
But it was her upbringing in Providence as the child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic that motivated her to help people navigate the health care system. “My background and my life have inspired me to do this work,” Jarolyn said. “Growing up, I acted as an interpreter for my parents. I had to develop the skills to help them.”
To earn all 150 credits needed to receive degrees in three majors in four years, Jarolyn became an expert in time management. She took 19 credits every semester and enrolled in summer classes. She also worked part-time, volunteered as an interpreter at the Rhode Island Free Clinic, led the Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority, and served as a mentor for URI 101 classes and for the Community Service Learning seminar.
If that was not daunting enough, during Fernandez’s freshman year her mother had a minor stroke. Jarolyn moved home, commuting for the remainder of her college years. Amid all these demands, she also completed an internship and independent study at the Providence Community Health Center.
“My dream job is to be an advocate and communicate with people to minimize disparities, help people who don’t understand the system and work with health care professionals so they learn to speak in the language of the patient,” she said.
Jarolyn hopes to find a position working with underserved populations. Later on, she plans to attend graduate school to study public health and health care communications and marketing.
Despite the challenges, Jarolyn said she is simply grateful that her parents came to the United States. “I am always thankful to them for that. If I was born in another country, I might not have had this opportunity to go to college and pursue my dream,” she said.