Undergraduate Breiuana White is one of two students to be awarded the 2022 Fannie Lou Hamer-W.E.B. DuBois Service Scholarship, an award given each year on behalf of the Penn State Forum on Black Affairs (FOBA) to an undergraduate who demonstrates service to the African-American community.
White, along with Penn State World Campus student Sarah Estime, received the award during the virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Celebration in January. The scholarship honors the memory of Hamer, a civil rights and voting rights activist in the 1960s, and DuBois, an author, sociologist and one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909.
“Working with and helping others is my happy place,” said White, a third-year student at University Park. “It has been my number one priority to spend my time doing what I enjoy. I think that’s really important. The rest just builds from there.”
White has a passion for community involvement at her core, and it keeps her very busy. Since coming to Penn State she has served as a Blueprint peer-mentor for new University Park students of color and a mentor to students with special needs in the LifeLink PSU program. White is also a resident assistant and the president of the Mu Eta chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, which sponsors and participates in volunteer programs serving the African-American community at Penn State. Through her activities and passion for service, White exemplifies leadership that honors Hamer and DuBois.
“Through my sorority I help run various programs such as a business experience event for Black business owners in the area and an empowerment event for Black men within Penn State's community,” said White. “We also volunteer for charities such as Out of the Cold in Centre County by donating items for people who are homeless. Zeta Phi Beta upholds character and service values similar to my own, so it has been very important to me.”
White is a biological sciences and health professions major who plans to pursue a career as a medical doctor. To broaden her experiences, she completed a neuropathology internship at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Summer of 2021. She is especially interested in the human brain, and thus completed her internship within the Brain Bank and Research CoRE. The brain bank collects research specimens that will help investigate diseases such as dementia and traumatic brain injury.
“My internship experience was amazing. I spent my summer in New York shadowing doctors and learning about different disease cases, such as concussions and brain injuries in football players,” said White. “I also observed laboratory procedures for collecting brain samples from deceased persons to examine nerve pathology on microscope slides. I had so much fun learning about the human brain.”
White noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has only fueled her prior aspirations to pursue a career in healthcare. “I think helping others is really rewarding on its own, and a career in medicine will give me more opportunities to do that,” said White. In the future, she said she hopes to take her studies abroad to learn from hospitals in other countries.
Whether it is through science or service, White said she is happiest when she is involved in her community.
“I think the overarching idea is just being there for anyone who does need help,” she said. “The mentorship I have received from others has always meant a lot to me and I like carrying that forward.”