Prairie View A&M University’s (PVAMU) first participation in the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship program has resulted in the selection of three PVAMU students for the 2021-22 school year.
Jamahsis Hodge-Marshall, James L. Jones, and Daniela Ruiz will take part in the program, which is “dedicated to training the next generation of professionals to serve and empower vulnerable people to build healthier communities and live healthier lives.”
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Houston-Galveston (ASFHG) is a nonprofit organization that offers graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to design and implement a year-long mentored community-service project addressing a local underserved population’s unmet health need. Student projects are typically performed in collaboration with local agencies, helping to enhance and extend existing community services.
With PVAMU’s fellows formally inducted into the program, the three are firming up details of their proposals as part of their orientation. Ruiz, a senior biology major, has named her project “Stay True,” which will focus on sexual health among a target population of 14- to 19-year-olds. Hodge-Marshall, a junior criminal justice/justice studies major, is targeting an even more focused group: LGBTQ youth in rural areas, who lack a safe space for gaining and sharing information about sexual health. Jones’ project aims to bring in lecturers and provide resources to high schoolers in danger of dropping out (or having dropped out) to help them develop “life skills that aren’t usually taught in schools,” Jones said.
Hodge-Marshall said she hopes to propose creating a safe space at Waller County High School for LGBTQ youths who may not have open and accepting families. Nursing staff can be utilized “to give good information about sexual health,” Hodge-Marshall said. “I want everybody to feel that they are being heard.”
Ruiz’s goal is a program that can foster open discussion, where questions and answers can be raised and talked through. “I feel like there’s a stigma attached to talking about sexual health,” Ruiz said.
Jones, a senior psychology student, imagines working in “a classroom or Zoom-like setting” and setting up opportunities for one-on-one discussion. “One of the first things is going to be mental health, focusing on how to cope with stress or trauma in a productive manner,” he said.
Serving as liaison to and administrator of the fellowships is Quincy C. Moore, Ph.D., director of the PVAMU Honors Program. (He’ll also serve as Ruiz’s mentor during her project.) He said the genesis of the institution’s involvement was a conversation between professors that eventually reached the president’s office. “The President’s Office sent it down to my office, and you know, once it gets to me, it has to happen,” Moore said, laughing. “But this is just at a different level. This is something they have to be really involved with and be really engaged in their outcomes; it’s not like going to a food bank on the weekend. This is an all-in approach from the entire university. Not only the students, but the university has invested in their participation, and everyone is looking forward to success.”
Once the fellows have been connected with local organizations, they’ll each be responsible for a minimum of 100 hours of community service. But Moore expects many more hours to be spent with boots on the ground. At the end of the year, PVAMU’s fellows will present data and information seeking to measure the success of their projects. Ruiz, for one, said she wants to ensure her project outlives the one-year timeline of the fellowship.
“It’s all about impacting underserved communities; it’s a way for students as they matriculate through their college education to give back to others who aren’t as fortunate,” said Moore. “The students are going into it with eyes wide open. This is their brainchild, and the more time they put into it, the more impact they’ll be able to make on the communities they’ll be involved with.”