As our Plansoen Scholars begin the new year, four scholars will be graduating in May. This past year they have helped during the rummage sale, attended Wednesday night dinners, assisted in and attended morning worship. As you read their update along with their plans for the future, you will see that they are doing well and grateful for our prayers, support, and assistance. When you see them in the coming months, greet and thank them for their presence among us.
Rev. Dr. Don Dempsey
Plansoen Scholarship Director
An Update from Plansoen Scholar Carolynn Ruth Boatfield:
I am so grateful for a smooth return back to campus, and a warm welcome back to the congregation these past Sundays at service. The winter break was so refreshing, and with this being my last semester at the college, I am so glad to have an easy return.
There was much time over the holidays to center myself, and I am making it my new year resolution to find more time to relax (a concept foreign to me, as I like to do EVERYTHING). Still, I decided to jump right back into my commitments and activities on campus, and realized how much I missed being busy.
I felt the pressure of Senior year this past week, as I presented my capstone research project that was a year in the making. I chose to investigate the public’s perception of law enforcement. To do so, I collected online microblogs for the year of 2020 to July of 2021, and analyzed this data by using the principals of sentiment analysis. I love working with statistics, so this was a great opportunity to produce meaningful work while also learning more computational skills in the field of data science.
Additionally, I am finishing a separate research project I have been involved with for the past 4 years at the college. I study Artificial Intelligence and its interactions with humans in the TRL lab on campus, and have worked in tandem with my lab members to finish our second publication accounting the social relationships between AI and humans. For the next 2 months, I will be preparing a presentation to speak at the Midwestern Psychological Conference at the Palmer house in Chicago. Though this isn’t until April, I am polishing up my speech and cannot wait to share our research. This has been my passion project since my Freshman year, and I am truly lucky to have been able to keep up with the ever-evolving field of AI in such an interesting way.
Outside of academics, I have restarted my radio show on campus and switched to Thursday nights from 9pm-10pm. I very much missed the feeling of being inside the studio and the atmosphere of creativity that surrounds the WMXM radio station. Seeing all of my radio friends again in person was a wonderful experience, though slightly bittersweet as I will be graduating soon and leaving the present forester community.
I am also thankful to be able to safely participate in campus activities. This year, I am the outreach chair for LFC’s Future Health Professionals club, and in this role I am able to plan volunteering events for our club. We are currently planning a volunteer outing to Feed My Starving Children, and hope that we will have a large turn out! When I was a Freshman, it was confusing and downright impossible to find volunteering events that were accessible and directly benefitting the community. Seeing the importance of volunteer experiences and expanded perspectives in the field of medicine, I feel so fulfilled in planning these events for students. It is so integral for servitude and humility to be qualities embodied by healthcare professionals, especially in a world where there is still much inequality to be addressed. By organizing these events and emphasizing volunteer work in our club, I feel that I am making a direct impact to deconstruct biases in medicine.
In addition to my work expanding the health volunteer options for LFC, I am also an intern at Mothers’ Trust Foundation. I have been an intern for a few months now, and am really enjoying the work we are doing. This semester, we just launched our teacher grant program. Though it is the first year we are doing this program, we’ve already seen multiple different applications come through. We have constructed a program specifically for Waukegan high school teachers that will allow them to submit a proposal for a project, tools for education, or an initiative they hope to bring for their classroom. After careful review and close planning with these teachers, we hope to provide the funding and guidance to bring more opportunities to these hardworking teachers and deserving students. So far it has been a great success, and I’ve been involved through the process; From editing the application to making the flyers and helping spread the word, I have enjoyed assisting on this project. Ultimately, I am so glad to have started this internship. The insight in how to address communities struggling with resources and provide empowering help is invaluable, and so meaningful for the work that I hope to do in my future. I have always dreamed of working in service to others. More specifically, in under-resourced communities, and experiences like this consistently confirm that line of work is my calling.
Though there are many great and exciting developments happening in my life right now, I would be remiss to not mention a somber tone of these past few weeks. There is a heaviness in my heart due to the ongoing pandemic. I am still working (in a part time capacity) as an MA, and see the strife and loss experienced by my patients. I am truly lucky to be healthy, as we have experienced the direct loss of many great individuals over the past few months, especially recently. There seems to be some relent against this as we move past the holidays and adjustment of the incoming year. However this is not a sanction to act irresponsibly. I fully see the extent to which misguided behaviors can affect our peers and community members, and I hope there is still consistent empathy that is ubiquitous in the choices we all make.
Independent of the whirlwind of activities and endeavors I fill my life with, Graduation steadily approaches. In the midst of my hectic last semester, I find moments to relax and reflect on the great opportunities I have been given, and how much has been accomplished as I approach this metaphorical “finish line”. Truly, I cannot describe my gratitude for the supportive congregation family I have been welcomed into through the FPC Plansoen scholar program. All of the activities, initiatives, research, and movements I am able to participate in is a direct result of the support of this wonderful community. I am truly blessed. As such, It is my hope for the remainder of the semester to make the most of my involvements. Without such lovely people in both the congregation and alongside me as scholars in the program, I would not be able to make the same impact at LFC and beyond. Going forward, I want to inspire the underclassmen to engage with their world in the way I did, and especially within the FPC congregation. Upon graduating, I hope to have left an impact on the upcoming classes, and serve as an example of how just one person can make such a difference.
After my 4 year adventure at Lake Forest College ends in mid-May, I will have around 2 weeks to prepare for my next endeavor. Immediately after, I will dive right into the next chapter of my life: PA school at Rosalind Franklin University. As always, it will be my goal to succeed beyond my wildest expectations, and find a plethora of ways to make a difference in this new community. I hope to participate in their community health clinic in North Chicago, as well as volunteer my time at the local VA hospital right next door.
Though it is years ahead, I know I want to work in Infectious Disease and Primary Care, with a specific focus in HIV detection and prevention education. So often, factors such as money, skin tone, language, and disability affect a persons’ access to care and information about their health. I hope that I can use my past experiences and broadened perspectives to meet my patients with an impartial and supportive demeanor. I want our interactions to be a neutral arena for questions, concerns, and a springboard for discussions on how to find the best way to keep them healthy.
Thinking about the future is so exciting, and I know there are wonderful times ahead. For now, I will take each day as it comes, and keep on doing my best. I look forward to seeing everyone soon these next upcoming Sundays, and hope everyone is doing well, also!
Carolynn Ruth Boatfield