Class of 2020
Alumna Jaime-Lee Lewis knows that she has a gift for helping others. Now, she is applying that passion as she serves our country through the United States Army National Guard with skills that she acquired at Hostos. Her civilian job prepared her to give patients optimal medical care, and now she will be aiding the country in its efforts to continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, life has shown Jaime-Lee that though supporting others is fulfilling, the most important person you can show up for is yourself.
Read our interview with 2020 graduate and Army Reservist Jaime-Lee to learn about how she balances her desire to serve others with her new-found perspective on making herself a priority.
The following is an excerpt of an interview with Jaime-Lee conducted by Alumni Relations Manager Félix Sánchez. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Q & A
How has your experience at Hostos affected your life?
Hostos is the only school I went to that actually gave me the chance to become a nurse. I went to other schools before Hostos, but even though I qualified, placement in the programs I wanted was competitive. I had to take prerequisites to get a placement, and those prerequisites didn’t transfer when I changed schools. As a result, I could not continue with those programs anymore. I had to find another resource. I wanted to become a registered nurse, but at Hostos, I was advised to get the licensed practical nurse (LPN) certification first as I completed my pre-requisites. I benefited from Hostos because they knew how to structure the program so that I could become a medical practitioner and stay on track toward my higher goals, rather than just take random classes. I was treated like an individual, not lost in the mass of students.
What does serving your country mean to you?
The ability to help.
I learned a few years ago that my gift was helping. I wanted to have a real talent like singing, dancing, or poetry—but my gift is helping. It’s instinctive to me to help others; I don’t even think about it. I’m proud knowing that I'm wearing a uniform that permits me and employs me to help others. There have been natural disasters and with the pandemic that's going on right now, people really need help. I like to remind myself that my service is not just about assisting others, though; it is making me better. I want to make sure that I’m somebody who doesn’t just observe, but who acts.
Being a soldier of the United States Army National Guard is an honor because of what's happening in to the world right now. We see so many issues, but at basic training we learn that only 1-2 percent of people volunteer to serve the country. It’s an honor to be among those who do. I was a little disappointed that I was not able to serve on the first COVID-19 missions because I was in school. But because I was in school for nursing, Command informed me that when I graduated I could serve as a nurse and a soldier.
Since graduating, I had a civilian job that transitioned to remote work, but I was recently called up to active duty to serve on a domestic deployment. My deployment will start soon, and I will be a part of the country’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. I haven’t had the opportunity to practice as a nurse yet, but I hope to use my skills in my role with the military.
What experiences have shaped you into the person you are now?
I am learning about myself, and recently learned that I am a highly emotional person. I am learning how to center my emotions when it comes to my experiences, so this question has me thinking about what has caused me hurt and pain. A few years ago, my father passed away, and then my best friend she passed away within months of my father passing away. I wasn't there for her when she was passed as I promised I would be. I was hoping to be there, but I was too late; that affects me still. For a long time after that, I felt like I couldn’t move. Like I was stuck.
What helps you keep moving forward?
I don't have a choice. I have to keep going even when I don't want to. There is something in me that makes me keep going; I don't know what or who – I guess God. I'm just hoping for the best and each and every step. Life goes on whether you want to go on with it or not. I'm not married, and I don't have any children, and those are things I want to have. I do believe these things will come, but I can’t wait for them to happen. I'm learning to be kind to myself again. I used to be, but I’d forgotten how to do that for a while.
Please share about your plans for the future.
I want to get my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). I already have an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree so I'm going to go through an accelerated program to get my BSN. I am also thinking about getting my master’s in healthcare management. I’m deciding whether I’d like to be a nurse practitioner or go into healthcare management. I’d also like to buy a house, so I have to figure out how to balance finishing school and buying a house.
I want to get married, I want to have children but that's what I don’t have control over. We may not have control over everything, but we are able to move our chess pieces in the game of life if we know what we want. As far as relationships go, I know that romance is easy, but learning people is hard. So rather than worry about those things, I focus on getting the things that I know I want: I want to finish my education and buy a house.
What would you like to tell Hostos students to help them be successful?
Remember your “why” and let that be your motivation. Whatever inspires you – let that keep driving you forward. Always remember who is supporting you; prioritize your family and your true friends.
We're constantly changing as individuals. You can be one way for a time and then one day be somebody totally different. It’s ok be different; it's ok to change; its ok to have experiences that change you. That’s what living is all about.
Most importantly, love everybody and do wrong to no one – including yourself. You have to be your own best friend. To be the strongest version of you, you have to treat yourself well.