SPRINGFIELD — Of the nearly 1,300 students who graduated from American International College (AIC) this May, seven were in the first group to earn a bachelor of science degree in public health. One of those students will soon be on her way to an exciting volunteer experience across the country.
Shameka James, born in Hartford, relocated to Springfield as a teen and graduated from the High School of Commerce. James was accepted into the Nursing program at AIC but found that the combination of school, work commitments, and extracurricular activities wasn’t a good match with the Nursing program. James transferred to the Occupational Therapy program; however, it wasn’t until she took a course in public health that she found her future.
When James took classes with Dr. Fred Hooven, director of AIC’s Public Health program, and adjunct faculty member Dayna Campbell, she found her niche, and has been on the dean’s list ever since. “I could apply knowledge I already had in a broader scope. There was more community interaction. My capstone project got me involved with my own community relative to food injustice. I liked that,” James said.
Hooven relayed his own experiences as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, which further inspired James. She was encouraged to apply, received a recommendation from Campbell, and was accepted within two weeks. James leaves in October for Sacramento, Calif., where she will participate in team-building and physical-assessment training for four weeks as part of an eight- to 12-member team that will work on numerous projects, including disaster relief and community development.
“It’s exciting, but scary,” James said, adding, “I’m going for the experience, and when I get back, I’m going to grad school to get my master’s degree in public health and help my community.”