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Public Health senior finds mentors and community at Mizzou

Sept. 13, 2021
Photos courtesy of Jaylan Wright

Jaylan Wright

Hometown: Houston, Texas
Major: Public Health senior
Minor: Human Development and Family Studies

Jaylan Wright and mom
Jaylan’s mom, Trina, right, works toward college access for at-risk and undocumented students. She is a doctoral candidate at St. Thomas University for Ethical Leadership. “There’s always been a big push for me to go to college,” Jaylan said.

Why did you choose Mizzou?

I went on quite a few college tours, but none of the campuses felt as easy to navigate as Mizzou. It was also important for me to be able to find community as a Black student. At Mizzou, there are spaces for us to convene and create friendships and community.

What was the first thing you did on campus?

One of my first experiences was the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center BBQ. I lived in Excellence Hall right across from the GOBCC and saw [a lot of] Black students lined up outside. It helped to know there are people who look like me here. In classrooms, I may be in the minority, but when I’m with my community, I feel safe, heard and seen.

Are there any faculty who have had a special impact on you?

The faculty member who helped push me to investigate what I want to do within the field of public health was Jenna Wintemberg. She has been a confidant for me. I could express my insecurities and she would tell me, “Just go for it.” Even when she was busy, she still took time to have conversations with me about what I needed to be doing to further my goals.

What’s been your favorite course?

I really loved Women and Gender Studies 2960: Sexual Health taught by Virginia Ramseyer Winter. She allowed us to have open conversations about things like abortion rights and the intersectionality of sexual health and social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic status. 

So, what do you want to do now?

I’d like to help make sex education more comprehensive for queer and other identities. I see the intersection between lack of sexual education, lack of accurate sex ed, and how students are developing relationships and expressing bodily needs. Consent and communication [are also important] in health care – patients need to be able to advocate for themselves in health care and feel comfortable talking about what parts of their bodies are hurting.

What organizations have you been involved with?

I got into Mizzou Alternative Breaks my freshman year and have done several trips. Last year, I was on the MAB executive board as director of development and leadership. Since we couldn’t travel or meet in large groups, we partnered with organizations we could help virtually, like writing cards to veterans and crowdfunding for a nursing home. MAB has taught me discipline, ways to pivot, and how to be innovative.

What’s your advice for new Health Professions students?

My experience at Mizzou has been so rich. My recommendation for incoming students: Don’t say no. Try as much as you can. Try the courses that put a spark in your eye. Learn about things that are maybe uncomfortable but pivotal to society. Take time to invest in yourself and invest in your community.

Group of students in matching "Mizzou Alternative Breaks" teal t-shirts
Jaylan, back row, left, led a Mizzou Alternative Breaks trip to Nashville, Tennessee, in winter 2019. The group volunteered at the McNeily Center, a childcare center for low-income families.
Jaylan Wright pageant photo
Jaylan has been able to fund 85% of her education with merit-based scholarships, including a Top Teens of America scholarship. She was crowned Miss Top Teen in 2018. “Every year I also fill out scholarship applications through the school of Health Professions and Mizzou.” Above: Jaylan with her family, from left: Tina (mom), Ethel (grandma), Joshua (brother), and James (dad).