MDC Medical Student Wins a Florida Coalition’s Top Award for Community Service
Sonia Fajardo, MDC nursing graduate and Florida Campus Compact 2009 Excellence in Service Award winner.
Miami, June 2, 2009 - Sonia Fajardo, a 2009 nursing graduate from Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Medical Center Campus, has another reason to celebrate her scholarly accomplishments. From an outstanding pool of statewide nominees, she was recently named a recipient of the Florida Campus Compact’s Excellence in Service Award for the community/state college sector.
“This is definitely an honor and a nice completion to my nursing education,” said Fajardo, who was nominated for the award by her mentor and MDC professor Marie Etienne.
A highly competitive process, Florida Campus Compact evaluates the academic and community/public service efforts of college students throughout the state of Florida. To meet an academic requirement of 23 service-learning hours, Fajardo used an idea to help needy residents near the neighborhood coffee shop she visited regularly, and a chance conversation with a friendly customer to begin planning and organizing a health fair.
Community service is a required component of all of the college’s degree programs. Students must complete a minimum of 23 hours before graduation.
“The Dunkin Donuts in North Beach was my study hangout because it was the only place I could actually concentrate,” said Fajardo. While there, the Jackson Hospital nursing scholar met Robert Fountain, a Calvary Chapel pastor and Miami Beach police chaplain, who offered to help with some of the outreach and marketing functions for the event.
Fajardo said targeting the working class neighborhoods within North Beach where the health fair was held last November had more to do with the heart and wasn’t a random opportunity to score community service points.
“North Beach residents consist mainly of Hispanic children and families of low economic status, who do not have insurance and are limited in their resources and access to affordable health care,” said Fajardo. “I felt like it was my duty to help in some way because that’s what I’d been trained to do.”
The nursing graduate believed it was not only her responsibility to fulfill the requirements for her degree but to also help individuals gain the knowledge, motivation and resources needed to make informed decisions about their own health care.
During the two-month planning process, she researched community based organizations and invited over a dozen to the health fair. She wrote letters, scheduled the event, and organized the volunteers, many of whom were her own classmates from the Jackson Hospital Nursing Scholars group.
The entire experience, from start to finish, opened many doors for the hopeful registered nurse. Since last year’s health fair, she recently graduated with honors, was nominated and won a top service award, and is planning a second health fair this fall, due in part to the relationships she forged during the first event.
“Her efforts have been so successful because her leadership skills are so inherent,” said Etienne. “She had the unique perspective of organizing this event based on a community needs assessment. Obviously a skill that will help her to be a leader in nursing as well as any task she undertakes.”
With the assistance and leadership of Etienne, some of the legwork Fajardo managed: arranged an orientation for all volunteers to gather all the necessary supplies that were culturally sensitive and appropriate to the needs of the children and families; and set-up a children’s corner for nursing students to provide instruction and demonstrate healthy hygiene habits, such as hand washing, dental care, nutrition, and smoking prevention.
“I wasn’t’ expecting recognition for the health fair or anything,” said Fajardo. “I’ll always remember it. This is wonderful.”
Florida Campus Compact comprises 50 colleges and universities throughout the state to help students develop leadership skills through community and public service efforts. Fajardo’s community health fair at Biscayne Elementary in North Beach last fall, was the accomplishment that likely impressed the judges panel.
Now, with a four-year degree in hand, Fajardo is preparing for another milestone; one that will likely make her a licensed professional registered nurse. As a Jackson Nursing Scholar, Fajardo is guaranteed employment with the hospital, granted she passes the state board exam.
For more information about the 2009 North Beach Health Fair or to get involved, contact Sonia Fajardo, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611, email@example.com, MDC communications director
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359, firstname.lastname@example.org, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710, email@example.com, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482, firstname.lastname@example.org