Warren High School junior travels to NYC for National Youth Leadership Forum

Photo submitted to Times Observer Madison Gray spent 10 days in New York City thanks to an anonymous nomination.

Madison Gray just got back from New York City.

The Warren native is entering her junior year of high school, but at the end of her freshman year, she got a mysterious letter one morning in homeroom.

The letter told Gray that she’d been nominated to attend an eight-day Envision National Youth Leadership Forum. The Envision program offers high school students the opportunity to try out their intended career for eight days with on-site instruction, simulations, and campus living.

The nomination was anonymous, said Gray, and she may never know who nominated her. She doesn’t think it was a teacher because no one really knew that she was thinking about nursing when she was only a freshman.

But she was.

Gray has big aspirations when it comes to nursing. She’d like to work her way though to a PhD in nursing and eventually become the director of an entire pediatric nursing unit, she said.

Gray wants to work somewhere like Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.

“I like kids,” she said. “They’re easier to talk to, they’re always active, and I think they’re just more fun.”

As to whether or not she thinks it will be hard to work with terminally-ill children, Gray said, of course, it’s sad, but they’re going to be sick either way.

“At least if I’m a nurse, I’ll know I get to help them,” she said.

In her sophomore year of high school, Gray enrolled in the Health and Medical Assisting program at the Warren County Career Center, and she’s been very happy with that so far. She plans to take advantage of the opportunity to get her CNA license and work during what would otherwise be time spent in a classroom.

Gray arrived at St. John’s University — her choice of nine different universities, including the University of California – Berkeley, the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, UCLA, Emory University, The University of Chicago, Babson College, and the University of Houston.

Gray chose St. John’s because she thought she’d love New York City.

And she was right.

Asked whether or not she was excited to come back home, Gray admitted it was nice to be back home with family, but that she can’t wait to graduate and move on to a more urban lifestyle.

“I love the city,” said Gray. “It’s just so exciting.”

Among the different academic activities that filled her eight days in NYC were discussions on what it takes to get an education and, eventually, a career in medicine; lessons on leadership in the field; and a live observation of a knee replacement surgery.

There were also more formal, practical classes like outdoor emergency medicine (for when help is hours away), medical ethics, clinical skills rotations, disaster triage, and a simulation laboratory where Gray was able to diagnose a living “patient” hands-on.

Students also spent a considerable amount of time before leaving the program setting personal goals and writing a personal leadership plan.

In addition to the career-based experience, the Envision program seeks to give students independent living and cultural experiences.

“We had time during the day when we could go off-campus and explore the city,” said Gray.

She said that her cohorts — eight girls from different states, including Alaska, Connecticut, and Virginia — really enjoyed the Chinese market not far from St. John’s, and they also visited Times Square and other cultural landmarks.

Overall, the experience was transformative, she said.

Gray came away with a better idea of what to expect as a medical student, and what would be expected of her as a professional in the medical field.

And, if anything, it only clarified and strengthened her conviction that she wants to be a nurse.