Commencement 2015: URI senior ready for range of nursing opportunities

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Cranston resident has completed numerous, clinical, research, volunteer experiences

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 1, 2015 – If you look at Janelle Amoako’s packed, one-page resume, it’s hard to determine what she’ll do in her nursing career after earning her bachelor’s degree May 17 from the University of Rhode Island.

Will the honors student choose public health, international health and relief work, medical-surgical nursing in a hospital or work in a free clinic?

Despite her wide-ranging experiences as an undergraduate, the Cranston resident is very clear about her first step after commencement.

“I am looking at medical-surgical positions, since you are working with many different patients and you have such an opportunity to broaden your skills,” she said. “I would like to branch out into community health and international health. With my family’s heritage in Ghana, I still have a soft spot for helping there.”

The dean’s list student was a recipient of the Elaine Moretti Scholarship, the Nursing Foundation of Rhode Island Scholarship and the American Heart Association Multicultural Scholarship.

The notions of volunteering and service became a part of her life as a child.

“I have been volunteering since I started at the Cranston Public Library when I was 13. I volunteered to get out of the house because my mother had strict rules,” she said while flashing her brilliant smile. “It just stuck with me and before I knew it, I had volunteered at Rhode Island Hospital for four years. So when I started college, I wanted to continue doing community service.”

It was her campus involvement and connection to nursing and other faculty members that helped ease the transition from the small Apponaug Christian Academy to the bustling campus of URI.

“When I came in as a freshman, I didn’t know how I was going to fit in. I was worried about how I would do academically. But once I got involved, opportunities began to open up,” said Amoako, who completed the Hausman Nursing Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital last summer.

“I dove right into organizations like the Student Alliance for the Welfare of Africa, Sankofa Christian Ministry, Campus Ministry International, Campus HOPE, and the Student Nurses Association, which helped me connect to other people,” she said.

She became close to faculty members such as Cindy Brittain, Diane Martins, Alicia Curtin, Donna Schwartz-Barcott and Carolyn Hames.

“When I began chem.103 with Dr. Brittain, I knew chemistry wasn’t my strong point. That was also true of chem. 124, organic chemistry. I was nervous, but I made up my mind to work closely with Dr. Brittain. I ended up doing well in both classes.”

Amoako said her work with nursing faculty opened up research opportunities, including a project on aging in place (at home) with professors Curtin, Martins and Schwartz-Barcott.

“We reviewed professional journal articles about older adults in their homes or nursing homes, and how older adults dealt with that transition,” she said. “I also conducted interviews with older adults in the community.”

Her connection with these faculty members led to volunteer work at Clinica Esperanza, a free clinic in Providence where she interviewed patients about their medical histories, obtained information about their acute conditions and assessed patients’ vital signs.

As she wraps up her academic career, she is working with Dolores Walters, associate director of the southern Rhode Island Area Health Center, on her senior honors project, “Embracing the Asset of Cultural Identity for URI Nursing Students.”

A member of Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society, URI’s Nursing Ambassador Program and a former academic mentor for freshmen, she completed a nursing directed study experience in the Dominican Republic where she assessed public health systems in comparison to the U.S., shadowed nursing professionals in clinical settings and practiced her nursing skills under the supervision of clinical faculty.

While deeply enjoying her nursing classes and experiences, she is grateful to URI for giving her the opportunity to experience things outside her major.

“I was able to take classes outside of the nursing program, and they were a great complement to nursing,” Amoako said. “I just love the idea of learning!”

The oldest of four children, she is the first in her immediate family to graduate from college.

As she prepares to walk across the commencement stage, she is already thinking about what will follow her initial work as a medical-surgical nurse.

“I have always loved working with disadvantaged groups. I find when you work with these groups, you have to be in the community, with the homeless, those with addiction issues and immigrants. I am up for the challenge.”

Photo by Nora Lewis