In Scholars on September 23, 2020 - 7:25 am

Scholar Spotlight: Genevieve Kennedy

Genevieve Kennedy is a 2020 Carson Scholar from western Florida. She was one of 25 students in her class to be accepted into the BioMedical pathway of her high school’s Academy of Health Careers through which she takes rigorous science classes as electives all four years of high school. Before she graduates, she will take the Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam through the University of Florida to become a certified biotechnician assistant. In her spare time, Genevieve is a competitive swimmer who holds records on both her school and club teams and enjoys doing crafts and creating art as a way to destress and clear her mind. She’s also a member of the Interact Club, Chemistry club, the Link Crew, and her church’s youth group.

In 2019, Genevieve, along with the Citrus County Educational Foundation, co-founded “Pirate Cove,” a resource room at her high school, Crystal River High School, where any student can visit to obtain free snacks, school supplies, personal hygiene items, toiletries, clothes, and more. Genevieve saw a need for this resource because Crystal River is a Title 1 school with over 65% of its students (the highest of any high school in the county) receiving free/reduced lunch.

We asked Genevieve to share more about her work with Pirate Cove and what inspired her to create this fantastic resource for her fellow students.

1. Please share a little more information about your specific work/role in Pirate Cove.
My freshman year I founded Pirate Cove, a resource program at Crystal River High where any student can access to obtain free toiletries, clothes, school supplies, and snacks. To meet the significant needs of the program, I partnered with the Citrus County Educational Foundation (CCEF). Their initial grant provided shelving units and storage tubs. These were installed in a resource room in the guidance office. Throughout the year CCEF provided monies to purchase supplies to replenish Pirate Cove. I also sought out community donations regularly. I obtained, organized, and replenished donations and built student awareness via posters, social media, and an iPad app. Approximately 28 students a week utilize Pirate Cove including teen moms, students on free/reduced lunch, and homeless students. This program has impacted over 1,250 students. Recently, I secured a $5,000 donation which will help fund Pirate Cove for future years.

2. What inspired you to be a part of Pirate Cove?
When a classmate asked for help buying personal hygiene items, I realized there must be other students who needed that same type of help. My high school has over 65% of its students receiving free/reduced lunch. I thought a program like Pirate Cove would be a wonderful way to help students.

3. What is one of the most challenging parts of working on this project?
Removing the obstacles that were keeping students from utilizing Pirate Cove was one of the most challenging aspects. Some students weren’t aware of Pirate Cove, so I advertised it through posters, social media, morning show announcements, and in teachers’ classrooms. Some students were too shy to request a pass to Pirate Cove (which is located in my school’s guidance office) so I arranged to have items placed in more discreet areas around campus. A really impactful solution was when I created an iPad app by using Google Forms to push out private request forms on student iPads. This allowed students to privately request items. For confidentiality reasons, a teacher received these requests and then gave me a list of supplies to collect. The teacher then arranged for students to privately pick them up from her.

4. What has been the most rewarding part of working on this project?
I believe by providing students with school supplies, toiletries, clothes, and snacks in a way that protects their dignity, the students in my school are able to realize their fullest potential. Students who aren’t hungry, who aren’t embarrassed to attend school, who have school supplies, and who know there are others ready to give them support are more likely to attend school and be successful.

5. Who is one influential person you look up to and why?
One influential person I look up to is “Coach T” Capt. Richard Tangeman, U.S.N (retired). Coach T is a former Navy aviator and POW at Hoa Lo Prison (also known as the “Hanoi Hilton”) where he was imprisoned for five years. He had the honor of serving with several great Americans including then Lieutenant Commander John S. McCain. After retiring from the Navy, Coach T taught high school mathematics and coached competitive swimming. I respect and look up to Coach T because of how big of a heart he has and how hardworking he is. Whether he is making me a stronger swimmer as my swim coach or teaching me how to solve complex math problems, he continues to love and support me through all my endeavors. He has taught me since I was a little girl to keep my dreams big and work hard. He is one of the reasons I decided to go into the medical field and to not give up on my dream of becoming a trauma nurse. I hope that one day I can impact someone’s life as much as he has impacted mine.

6. What are your goals for the future, not related to Pirate Cove?
I come from a multigenerational family of nurses and have wanted to carry on that proud tradition since middle school. As a student in the BioMedical pathway of Crystal River High School’s Academy of Health Careers, I took four years of rigorous science electives designed by Project Lead the Way where I investigated the roles of biomedical professionals by studying human medicine, physiology, genetics, microbiology, and public health. I also shadowed local physicians and participated in the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic’s Perry Initiative where I attended lectures by female orthopedic surgeons and sutured pigs’ feet, drilled bones, and made casts. I am taking Emergency Medical Technician dual-enrollment courses this spring so I can also graduate with an EMT certification. Recently I was accepted to Florida Southern College’s direct-to-BSN program and will begin my nursing program my freshman year. I hope to return to my community after college to begin my career as a trauma nurse.

7. What would you say to motivate younger students to get involved in service work?
Don’t think because you are young that your service work won’t have a profound impact on your community. Start with small steps and before you know it, you will have changed lives for the better in ways you didn’t even anticipate. There are so many generous people in our world willing to help you along the way!

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