VISTA Spotlight – JT Stoner

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Name: Jerone (J.T.) Stoner

Host Site: CSU Sacramento Commit 2 Study Program

Alma Mater: Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)

Major: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Background: As a student at Dickinson, I balanced a full load of classes and labs with a part-time job at the library on campus. I was also a member of Alpha Phi Omega (APO), which is an national national co-ed service fraternity that taught me to appreciate giving back to the community. Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to spend a year abroad at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England. There I took upper level biology and chemistry courses such as Cancer Biology, Infection and Immunity, Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Metabolism. While these classes were heavily rooted in laboratory work and learning “hard science skills,” the professors also challenged us to consider how one’s culture (e.g. language, religion, race/ethnicity), access to resources (e.g. education and healthcare) and ways of living (e.g. decisions to exercise, to eat healthy, to drink and/or smoke, to practice safer sex) rather than genetics can influence the spread of diseases. This way of thinking about science significantly contributed to my desire to pursue public health and learn to educate/advocate for healthier life choices in ways that scientifically appropriate as well as culturally sensitive.

JT Social Self 3.jpgIn pursuit of my public health interests, I applied and was accepted into a research program co-sponsored by Morehouse College and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. My project at the CDC was to assess the quality of an assay that detects genes specific to Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), which is an organism that can cause severe gastrointestinal problems and is typically spread as a result of improper sanitary practices. Though I did not work directly with people from the Guatemalan community, I still was responsible for understanding where and from whom my samples came in order to better understand ETEC in this region and why developing this diagnostic assay was vital. These experiences inspired me to take a gap year doing something that combines my interests and the knowledge I had gained throughout college, but this time NOT in a lab setting. That’s when my best friend introduced me to the AmeriCorps*VISTA program…

Why do you serve: I decided to serve as an AmeriCorps*VISTA because I wanted to give back to the community and because I wanted to challenge myself in a way that I’ve never challenged myself before. I chose the CSU STEM VISTA Program because I have a passion for STEM education and encouraging younger generations to pursue STEM degrees/careers like I was encouraged to do.

IMG_6833.JPGAh-ha moment: Prior to serving as a VISTA, I wasn’t aware of how passionate I was about STEM education and educating younger generations. This has translated into my future career goal, which is now to become a public health educator and community engagement coordinator. In short, I hope to be really involved in the community doing whatever I can to prevent disease, develop interventions, increase access to healthcare (e.g. by reducing stigma/discrimination associated with seeking medical attention for diseases like HIV/AIDS), and ultimately creating healthier futures for all.

Legacy: The legacy I hope to leave behind is one in which students feel encouraged to reach back into their communities and provide the support/resources they wish they had. I truly believe that if every generation were to pass down the knowledge they gained from personal experiences and interactions with others (not just the good or bad information), future generations would be well-equipped to handle the problems plaguing humans, animals, and the environment alike.

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