CheKenna Fletcher knows it can be challenging for people with diabetes to manage their nutrition. She’s seen her own parents struggle with making the right food choices while dealing with the condition.
Today she’s studying agricultural bioscience at Tennessee State University, in part so she can develop foods that might help individuals like them.
The Lebanon native hopes to pursue a master’s degree in public health after completing her undergraduate studies. She’s also interested in developing dietary educational opportunities for the community.
“I’d like to work in a lab and go out and teach others about food science and healthy eating,” she says.
“Whenever you go to the doctor, the one thing they tell you is, ‘Work on eating better.’ And I want to help show people how to do that.”
Fletcher, along with Tanzie Nguyen (University of Tennessee) and Takiyah Best (University of Memphis), earned a $10,000 Diversity Scholarship from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation this year. The scholarships recognize academic achievement and community service.
The three young women are studying for careers in food science, midwifery, and pediatric travel nursing, respectively. Family plays a big role in the health-care related majors each recipient chose.
Nguyen was born in Ho Chi Minh City and came to the United States as a young child. Her desire to help others led her to study nursing. And she volunteered at facilities such as Park West and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital to learn more about different parts of the health care field.
Blessed with strong family connections in east Tennessee, she plans to work in the area as a nurse midwife after she graduates.
“I have a big family, and part of my interest in nursing comes from the fact that I want to be able to help them as much as I can,” says Nguyen.
“If I know my stuff, I can take care of them really well. I also want to be able to serve this community, which has given so much to me.”
Best is driven by a desire to represent the third generation of her family to go into nursing.
“Growing up, hearing stories about my mom’s and grandma’s experiences as nurses and seeing how they’ve impacted so many people’s lives, how much they love their careers – that was a big inspiration for me.”
In addition to her work on campus and her efforts as a founder of the Black Student Nurses organization, the rising junior also volunteers with the Tigers for LeBonheur Children’s Hospital program. The experience fostered Best’s interest in pediatric care, and she plans to pursue travel nursing opportunities that will enable her to live and work all over the country.
Recognizing outstanding students and building a more inclusive workforce
The BlueCross Health Foundation and Community Trust have invested $135,000 in the future of high-performing Tennessee college students pursuing a calling in health care or a related field. Now in its fifth year, the Diversity Scholar program aims to help build a health care workforce that better mirrors the communities it serves.
Upon taking the stage of the Halloran Center in Memphis on a midsummer Friday, Fletcher, Nguyen and Best officially joined the ranks of the BlueCross Diversity Scholars.
Previous honorees also joined the celebration to talk about their experiences and serve as an example of the program’s success.
“It meant a lot to me to have that level of support as I went through my studies,” said Mario Lopez-Rodriguez, a nurse at Methodist LeBonheur Children’s Hospital and a 2014 Diversity Scholar.
“I appreciate the investment, and I know these students do as well.”