Hard work, a whole lot of passion, and the endless desire to be anything she wants to be is the driving force behind Jaynell Nicholson’s success--but her success has never come easy. A senior at Kent State University, Jaynell is studying Environmental Conservation Biology with a concentration in Environmental policy and management. She has the ability, the mindset, and the heart to take her education and make a difference in the world. The process has been difficult, but she wants to be the individual who changes the current standard and closes the gap between who you are and who you want to be.
As former President of Undergraduate Chapter of Scientista, current President of Black United Students, working in labs on campus, acting as a Kupita/Transiciónes mentor, and attending professional conferences around the country, Jaynell has found a community and family of her own. However these passions would not have been instilled in her if it was not for her childhood. At a young age Jaynell knew she was destined to be submerged in the field of science when she discovered a love for the outdoors. Since then, Jaynell always felt a connection with nature and has always questioned her surroundings. That connection continued to develop more in 5th grade when her teacher Mrs. Yarros inspired her. Jaynell recalls her teacher always telling her and the class to be the change and “make your special shine”. Her “special” quickly became a love for the environment and science.
Over the years Jaynell continued to be engulfed with nature and outdoors. She always strived to ‘let her special shine’, but she did not know exactly how to do so until eleventh grade physics with Mrs. Frye. Before the year started, Jaynell strongly disliked physics, but by the end of the year, Mrs. Frye had Jaynell in love with science again, liking physics and finalizing her decision to attend college. Mrs. Frye sparked the feminist in her and gave a name to the area of science she wanted to be a part of.
For Jaynell, college was an exciting idea. Very few people in her family had ever attended. The only person in her family was her father, and she was not even sure her grandfather finished high school. Jaynell also had to face being a minority in a STEM program notorious for its lack of diversity. To the average person, these factors would be discouraging, but for Jaynell they were motivators. The motivation to be the one, the motivation to be a role model to people like her, and the motivation to create change in her field. And so far, that is what she has been doing!
Jaynell’s time at Kent State has come full circle. She has been a part of projects, worked with professors, and travelled to places she never dreamed she would be able to. When asked what keeps her motivated, Jaynell said she is looking at where she is now compared to where she used to be. She is doing what she loves, being a role model, and paving the way. The sky is the limit for Jaynell. One day she hopes to have her own nonprofit for people of color in the STEM field so others can catch the passion she formed at a young age.
The journey has not been easy, but the destination has been worth it. Asking for help and not getting behind has carried Jaynell and will continue to help her. She has the passion, courage, and hunger to be anything and to do anything. If she sticks to her favorite quote from author Rupi Kaur, “give to those that have nothing to give back to you,” who knows what she can accomplish.