Student Spotlight: Destiny Byrd – SC Public Health Association Scholarship Winner

In our Student Spotlight feature, students working with or honored by the Institute will be highlighted. This article is eprinted with the permission of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Megan Weis served on the South Carolina Public Health Association Scholarship Committee.

Destiny Byrd’s got it together. The University of South Carolina public health major has only completed the first year of her baccalaureate education, but she has already amassed the professional and service experience that typically only post-grads can claim.

Originally from Greenville, S.C., Byrd’s tour guide solidified her decision to choose Carolina when she visited campus as a high school student. “He was very personable, and he shared a lot of the opportunities he took advantage of and other opportunities at the University,” she says. “This allowed me to see myself at USC because I had many options to enrich my academic experience and to network.”

Byrd chose public health because she wants to become a clinical dietitian and work with obese and diabetic patients. “I was interested in a health-related degree, but I didn’t want to major in biology, chemistry, etc., and then I found out about the Arnold School,” she explains. “Going to the different information sessions, before enrolling in USC, to learn about the opportunities with the degree helped me decide.”

Demonstrating a clarity and dedication that is rare for a freshman, Byrd spent her first year getting involved in public health and her university. As a Changing Carolina Peer Leader for Student Health Services, she serves as a Body Project Facilitator, helping to combat body image issues with evidence-based interventions, and as a volunteer—working with campus dieticians, the sexual health office, and the campus wellness office to conduct health promotion programs on campus. As a member of the Capstone Scholars Program, she has found support in her cohort of peer Capstone Scholars and a mentor in Assistant Principal Erin Wilson. “She connects me to many different resources and has helped me to network,” says Byrd. “She encourages me to take advantage of opportunities to figure out my career.”

In the research arena, Byrd has been involved with Project FIT, a research study that targets African American adolescents with obesity intervention programs. She is also working with Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior Associate Professor Alyssa Robillard on a research project related to the decentralization of the HIV positive and HIV negative inmate populations in S.C. To prepare for these roles, Byrd has received training in social and behavioral research and responsibility.

But there will be no rest for the rising sophomore who sees summer “break” as an opportunity to gain additional experience. The month of May presents an opportunity to participate in the USC in Costa Rica: Global Health program where she will conduct a hygiene workshop and work with her epidemiology class to create a database for a nursing home. Upon her return, Byrd will intern at Project Cyma as the non-profit’s Strategic Development Consultant, evaluating the impact of displacement on women and children who have been affected by the Boko Haram terrorist group in West Africa. This summer will also see her volunteering in the business office and assisting dieticians at a hospital in her hometown.

It all adds up to an impressive resume for someone who just graduated high school a year ago, and her efforts are being noticed. The South Carolina Public Health Association recently awarded Byrd a $500 scholarship based on her involvement in community, health-related and academic activities. She believes that she was selected for the award due to her strategic engagement in experiences that both provide her with highly transferable skills and demonstrate a commitment to make an impact on a variety of relevant public health issues.

“It’s a wonderful field centered on helping the whole person, communities and specific populations,” Byrd says of public health. “With a public health degree, you begin to look at the world from a different angle and the opportunities to make an impact are endless—the sky is literally the limit.”

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