Nursing student perseveres to become mentor

UMSL student Brittany Ferrell

Brittany Ferrell, a senior nursing student at UMSL, is president of the campus chapter of the Minority Student Nurses Association. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Brittany Ferrell embodies the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed: Try, try, try again.”

Ferrell, a senior in the College of Nursing at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, initially stumbled as a first-time college student, failing her first semester “miserably.” But instead of giving up she doubled down and was determined to succeed.

“Failing was just unacceptable and heartbreaking. I couldn’t take it,” she said. “I was like, ‘You’re either going to do it or you’re not. No one is going to take care of you. I picked myself up and went to see my adviser.”

Ferrell blames a full plate for her initial problems and failure to focus. Not only was she a full-time student, she was also a full-time single parent and full-time employee. She eventually moved forward in the nursing program and was accepted into clinicals.

Since that bumpy start she’s thrived and has turned her attention to helping other students who find themselves unprepared for the rigors of college. She serves as president of the UMSL campus chapter of the Minority Student Nurses Association. Prior to taking over the helm she served as vice president for a year.

“What better person to give advice to these people than me,” she said. “We offer mentorships and tutoring sessions. It’s a really big deal to me. I try and spend a lot of time helping out students because I know if I can do it they can do it. No one said it’s going to be easy. No one said you aren’t going to have to stay up late, get up early. You need to be prepared. And this is what I do for them. I feel like I owe it to them because I went through it.”

Ferrell is busier than ever and credits her academic success to a great support system of family and friends, a determination to succeed and, of course, her handy planner.

“My planner is with me all the time,” she said with a chuckle.

On a more serious note she said, “I’m not afraid to make certain sacrifices. I know where I want to be. I try hard and tune everything else out.“

It’s hard to believe she has the time, but Ferrell is also part of the University Ambassadors, a student volunteer organization at UMSL that assists University Events staff at campus and community events. In addition she works at a private duty nursing agency. Plus, she also works with Margaret Barton-Burke, the Mary Ann Lee Endowed Professor of Oncology Nursing at UMSL, on her Black Women with Breast Cancer Survivor Project.

“It is a lot. It sounds crazy when I tell people,” she said. “But giving back to the community is something I really enjoy.”

And her selflessness could become a career calling. Looking ahead to after graduation, Ferrell wants to get into community health.

“Not only do I have younger girls watching me, but my daughter is watching me. It makes me go and go and go. I feel like people just need me.”

Recently, Ferrell received the Deaconess Scholarship, a collaborative effort by Deaconess Foundation, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis and The St. Louis American Foundation.

She said she’s “super grateful” for the scholarship and the support, which she said validates all of her hard work. The funding should pay her tuition through graduation.

The UMSL Experience


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