I AM FPHLP 2016: Jessica Gonzalez

Jessica GonzalezJessica Gonzalez was part of the 2016 FPHLP cohort. She is in her senior year at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, majoring in Rehabilitation Services – Addiction Studies. This past summer, Jessica's field placement was with the Lenawee County Health Department in Adrian, Michigan.

From her time at the CDC to the night life in Ann Arbor, there were many highlights to Jessica's experience in the program. She describes the impact of the community service her cohort did in Flint, Michigan, distributing water to residents. "It opened my eyes to how bad the circumstances are, yet how grateful and graceful they [the residents] were," she says. Jessica also found the curriculum days to be beneficial, especially in bonding with the other participants. The relationships that they developed throughout the program were on full display during the first ever FPHLP talent show! Jessica was moved by the show, both as a performer and audience member, seeing both acceptance and praise for the cultures being shared.

The summer was not without challenge, however, as Jessica recalls how she began to feel homesick. Nevertheless, she knew she had the support of her friends and mentors. "Since I am planning on moving for grad school," she explains, "if I am ever in that situation again, I know who to talk and turn to...This experience definitely helped me grow as an individual."

Jessica Gonzalez and FriendsSince completing the program, Jessica has continued working toward her undergraduate degree and has begun to consider the grad schools she might attend. She hopes to become a licensed professional counselor as well as a licensed chemical dependency counselor and to begin practicing as soon as she graduates.

Reflecting on what encouraged her to apply to FPHLP, Jessica says, though she knew it was competitive, she could not pass up the opportunity. Jessica has been interviewed and featured in her school newspaper and has spoken in classes to encourage other students to apply for similar programs. To anyone uncertain of whether or not they should apply, Jessica advises, "Do it! You can doubt yourself like I did, but it is worth the doubts when you get accepted and receive the experience that you do. This program is not just focused on public health but also your professional, communication and networking skills. You build a family of 39 other people of different cultures from all over the nation in just 10 weeks, which is not something you would ever be able to do on your own...FPHLP is life changing!"