Hello! My name is Jama Brookes, pronounced like Jay-muh. I was the valedictorian of a class of one at my homeschool, the wonderful Blue Sky Academy of Excellence. I live in a small town at the foot of the Appalachian mountains called Connelly Springs, North Carolina, and I am beyond honored be a Wilson Scholar! If you would have asked me a few years ago what my passion was, I would have told you with excitement that I wanted to become a professional soccer player and later be a published author. Now, due to my path taking an unexpected turn, my passion could not be further from my original goals. Though my life is drastically different than I once planned, I believe it has steered me in a direction where I can make a larger impact in this world.
To inform you of my current passion, I must first give you a glimpse of the journey I have traveled. At the beginning of the second semester of my freshman year of high school, my colon disintegrated inside of me due to a severe case of Crohn’s disease. From there, it resulted in a multitude of life-threatening issues, five major bowel surgeries, endless procedures, and well over 200 days as a hospital inpatient over the course of my high school career. Being faced with such an unusual path, I not only had to alter how I approached my schooling but also how I approached my life.
Early on, I decided I could not allow my disease and illness to define me. Instead, I allowed it to expand my heart. Taking the beautiful skills I gathered during my most humbling days while inpatient at the hospital, I began to support other girls about to receive an ostomy, and while outpatient, I began to publicly speak about post-traumatic growth and resiliency. Whether I was ill or thriving, I inquired and took up any learning opportunities available, which helped build my integrative homeschooling experience. Today, I have spoken publicly in seven states; I have co-authored an article, “Road to Resiliency,” published in the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF)’s 2016 online article, LifeNet; and I will be co-presenting, “Youth and Young Adults: An Untapped Resource,” at ICISF’s 14th World Congress in the Spring of 2017. Also, thankfully, I am healthier than I have been in years.
Though at first I wanted to run as far away from the hospital as I possibly could, I have come to realize I can make the most difference in the medical field. On a very personal level, I have experienced some of the greatest and darkest things in healthcare system. I have encountered all types of doctors: some who completely turned their backs on me when I needed them the most, and others who openly embraced the challenge my unorthodox medical issues presented. Taking this knowledge and insight as a patient, I want to utilize it to transform the medical system from a disease-model to a resiliency-model through compassionate care. As I met with one of my past physicians, he said to me, “Jama, you have the ability to change the world, and it is my job to get you in a place where you can.” In the future, I want to approach every patient I meet with this same mentality because everyone has an irreplaceable talent and gift.
At Appalachian State University, I am majoring in Exercise Science because I believe exercise is medicine. I have no doubt that my education at App State will make me more than prepared to take on medical school, but what truly makes this university fantastic and unmatched by any place I have visited is the sense of community that revolves around a heart of service. Anywhere you look, you will find professors who teach with infinite passion and faculty who are always ready to lend a helping hand. For me, I could not imagine a better university to teach me the morals I want to hold as a future physician.
Overwhelmed and excited to tackle opportunities as a Wilson Scholar, I want to immerse myself into all points-of-view. I want to learn by training under the masters of Tai Chi in China, practicing alternative medicine from the Maori culture in New Zealand, and studying ancient medical history in Egypt. As I travel across nations, I want to lead and serve with a compassionate, fearless nature to establish true beauty wherever I go.
To Brad and Carole Wilson, I will forever be grateful for your faith and investment in my passion. Because of you, I now am even closer to one day changing the world.