An Interview with Whitney Stuard: Providing Education for Homeless Youth
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what has led up to this moment in your career?
I am currently in my sixth year at the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at UT Southwestern Medical School. Growing up in an active family involved in both the medical and education field, I have experienced first-hand the personal touch of education, as well as the healing aspect of medicine. As I sit here reminiscing, I realize how so many of my pursuits throughout my schooling prepared me for the Schweitzer Fellowship. My experiences, such as internships at hospitals, language studies, medical mission work, and running my own non-profit organization have allowed me to learn the skills I needed to be able to make a more impactful difference in my community.
Philanthropy has been a crucial motivator of my growth.Whitney Stuard
Since sixth grade, I have participated in a variety of volunteer groups including the National Charity League, which taught me how to use different ideas and perspectives to achieve a common goal. Through this, I became passionate about volunteering and spending time with others in my community.
In my undergraduate career, I learned of a need for kangaroo care and the wraps that made this practice possible. Kangaroo care is a technique where children are held in wraps to their mothers or caretakers’ chest to promote health and encourage bonding. Within a month of learning about this need, I founded Cradled with Love, a non-profit group providing baby wraps and education about kangaroo care, made with the help of volunteers, to new mothers in the community.
At UT Southwestern I have also held leadership positions in the Trauma Surgery Society, Free Clinic Committee, and Wilderness Medical Society. In the summer of 2012, I served as a liaison for a medical mission trip to Haiti and was even more recently given the chance to do the same in the Dominican Republic, which taught me to address issues far beyond my sphere of influence.
All of these activities demonstrate my passion for community service and my love for learning. When I learned about the Schweitzer Fellowship, I felt that this could be a new way for me to become involved in my community.
Through this fellowship, I am looking forward to combining my passion for helping others with my knowledge of the medical field and STEM fields. I will be prepared for the challenges and hope to implement an innovative interactive classroom approach through my project. I look forward to merging my compassion and intrinsic motivation to implement a STEM Empowerment course for the children at the Union Gospel Mission’s Center of Hope (COH).
What is the main goal of your project?
Education for children who are without stable housing is a major public issue. Attendance problems, sleep deprivation, lack of guidance, depression, and high stress affect the overall academic success of homeless youths. Center of Hope is a community shelter with a capacity of 235 residents that provides safety and support to single women and their children, who are homeless and/or abused. I will be working with the Union Gospel Mission staff, UT Southwestern faculty, and students to create a STEM-based curriculum with educational planning sessions. Each week, parents and their children will be given the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting to discuss educational opportunities and make plans for their child’s education. The project proposed will be the first to focus on education and STEM promotion with children at Center of Hope. Most importantly, this project will provide outstanding educational opportunities and a solid platform for these children to build upon as they continue through school.
What does being an Albert Schweitzer Fellow mean to you?
Since 1940, The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship has been upholding a commitment to empowering communities to lead healthy lives. The Fellows have passionately worked on implementing, creating, and maintaining projects to benefit underserved communities. I am humbled by the fact that my community trusts me to not only teach these children but learn from them as well.
As a Schweitzer Fellow, I feel a sense of pride, responsibility, and excitement knowing I’ve been chosen to help carry on this legacy.Whitney Stuard
To me, being a Schweitzer Fellow means being committed to going above and beyond in your community. To be a Fellow is to pledge your time outside of school to take what you learn and use it to help others. It means you want to learn to be a leader in improving your community. However, it’s more than one year of commitment; being a Schweitzer Fellow is a lifelong commitment to serve and maintain the legacy of the great philanthropist Albert Schweitzer. I am honored and humbled to be a Schweitzer Fellow this year.
What role do you think philanthropy plays in supporting research and innovation?
Research and philanthropy go hand in hand. Philanthropy plays an enormous role in funding research efforts that create innovative ideas and techniques. Philanthropy can also be used to develop research directly through quality improvement projects. Research plays a role in creating more efficient and sustainable philanthropic efforts.
Through the Schweitzer Fellowship, our philanthropy supports quality improvement research to make our projects more sustainable and helpful for the communities we are working in.Whitney Stuard
For example, in my STEM empowerment course for students, surveys are being performed that provide insights into what educational activities are helping students learn best and generating the most excitement about STEM. This will allow novel educational approaches as the class continues to identify what can make students’ journeys most successful.
Furthermore, none of these Schweitzer projects would be possible without the generous support and funding of the Schweitzer Fellowship. The Foundation supports students such as myself and allows us to implement innovative projects in our communities to help underserved populations. Without the generosity of others, the research and community service we do would not be possible.
The Legacy of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship
The philosophy that ASF champions aligns with the principles the Foundation has represented since its founding. Both ASF and the Foundation were established during World War II to develop leaders in service and inspire great citizenship through philanthropy. ASF was founded by Helene Bresslau Schweitzer and Albert Schweitzer in 1940. During the same time period, Southwestern Medical Foundation instituted the Ho Din Award.
Through the Ho Din Award, the highest honor bestowed on a graduating medical student from UT Southwestern, the Foundation has supported students who exemplify knowledge, understanding, and compassion. The Fellowship Program personifies these values, instilling a life-long philosophy of compassionate patient care, and paving the way for better health for all.
The Fellowship is open to students in eight local universities, including Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Texas Woman’s University, University of Dallas, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas, and UT Southwestern Medical Center.