St. Joseph’s Indian School Student Answers Knock of Opportunity

Posted on: September 5, 2023

(Chamberlain, S.D.) – Mersayis Selwyn took a few deep breaths before boarding a plane headed to California. At 17 years old, the St. Joseph’s Indian School student was taking her first flight. She was on her way to the University of California Berkeley for a week-long experience as a participant in the seven-day National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) Medicine & Health Care Program. Her experience capped months of fundraising to make the dream a reality.

Selwyn, an aspiring nurse, was the only student from South Dakota selected for the opportunity after her high school’s Health Occupations Students of America club advisor nominated her, and Krista Lepkowski, St. Joseph’s Alumni Relations Coordinator, helped with her application and travel plans. Native Hope, an outreach of St. Joseph’s Indian School that inspires hope for Native people, assisted with travel expenses.

“I was very nervous to be there alone and not know anyone, but I feel like it showed me how it would be in the real world when I travel alone,” Selwyn said.

At Berkeley, she would see if her dream of being a nurse matched her expectations. She was there to experience the collegiate lifestyle firsthand, learn from doctors, participate in an interactive curriculum, visit an accredited medical school, test her medical knowledge during clinical skills rotations and explore professional opportunities with other high school students.

Each day began in the classroom at 8 a.m., learning about various medical professions and topics. After a break for lunch, Selwyn and others from across the United States had free time before returning to classrooms at 1:30 p.m. for more lessons. Each evening, dinner was followed by a medical resident speaking about life after medical school.

“The parts of the program that made the biggest impression on me were when they took us to medical places,” said Selwyn. “For example, they took us to the simulation center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. They also took us to a couple of universities. At one university, we saw a real human heart!”

“Something I took away from this experience is how nurses and doctors, or any person in the medical field, truly take their jobs seriously — how much they want to help people,” said Selwyn. “When I decided to be in the medical field, the main reason was that I love helping people. The doctors and nurses showed me that their number-one priority is to help the patient and work in the safest way possible.”

“I would rate my experience a 10,000 out of 10! I loved it! Although I was very, very nervous, I feel like this was a great learning experience in many different ways!” said Selwyn.