CURA Pre-Orientation Program Engages New Georgetown Undergrads with Health, Justice, and Service

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August 18, 2021 – For several years, the School of Nursing & Health Studies has administered a pre-orientation for incoming Georgetown undergraduates focused on health, justice, and service.

CURA: A Healthcare Pre-Orientation Program – generously funded by BSN alumna Dee Harrison-Garvin (NHS’75), a member of the school’s Board of Advisors – operated virtually last year due to the pandemic and is back this August in a hybrid mode.

Standing in front of St. Mary's Hall, the home of the School of Nursing & Health Studies are: Dr. Diane Davis, Vanessa Taylor, Halyn Orellana (NHS’22) and JoJo Farina (C’23)
Leaders of the CURA pre-orientation program are, left to right, advisors Dr. Diane Davis and Vanessa Taylor and student coordinators Halyn Orellana (NHS’22) and JoJo Farina (C’23)

“Along with being a great introduction to Georgetown and a great way to meet friends going into college, I felt that CURA really helped kickstart my interest in social justice during my college career, and it continues to impact me to this day,” said co-coordinator JoJo Farina (C’23).

“CURA made Georgetown home for me,” added Halyn Orellana (NHS’22), co-coordinator. “It made me fall in love with the District, social justice, and achieving health equity for all. I have fond and unforgettable memories from my time as a first-year student, and since then I have learned to embody Georgetown’s Jesuit values.”

A Community of Support

Orellana, a human science major, added that CURA helped her with the transition to college, noting she had felt concerned about attending a predominantly White institution. 

“Being a first generation, low-income Latina with an interest in being a medical professional, I was scared I wouldn’t fit in, wouldn’t meet the standards, or wouldn’t make any valuable connections to other students,” she recalled. “My acceptance as a student participant in CURA, and student leader later on, proved that I had a community on campus that supported me 100 percent, accepted me for who I was, and wanted to help me reach my ultimate career goals.”

Farina majors in biological physics in the College and minors in science, technology, and international affairs at the School of Foreign Service. He added that he “had always been interested in health equity and the intersection of health care and social justice. I felt that CURA really helped to introduce me to a number of different issues I had never even thought about before.”

Determinants of Health

Eight incoming students from NHS and six from the College are taking part in this year’s program, which is running from August 15 to August 20. An outdoor welcome event and ice-breaker activities began the experience.

Participants are engaging in learning activities about the determinants of health and visiting different areas of the city. Site visits at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington organizations are occurring – in small groups and on a rotating basis given public health precautions – at Community Companions, the Kennedy School, Mt. Carmel House, and Mulumba House.

CURA is also collaborating with Martha’s Table for grocery delivery and 801 East Men’s Shelter on a facility cleanup project. Other virtual activities are also planned throughout the experience.

‘Rooted in Jesuit Values’

Vanessa Taylor, assistant to the dean and CURA staff advisor, said she has truly enjoyed working with the students.

“It is such an honor to work with the students in CURA – the coordinators, leaders, and participants all offer their unique talents and passions to form a caring community rooted in Jesuit values,” she said. “Every year I am amazed to see their strength in leadership and service grow and flourish, and to see such meaningful bonds form between them that lead into their exciting journey at Georgetown.”

Dr. Diane Davis, faculty advisor and Susan H. Mayer Professor in Health Equity, said Farina and Orellana make “a great team.”

“Both are dedicated to the CURA mission to build community among our students and to serve the DC community in which we live,” said Davis, also an assistant professor of professional nursing practice. “Both have experience as CURA participants and leaders, and both are incredibly organized problem solvers.”

Davis especially complimented the two for their creativity and initiative in bringing the values to life through meaningful activities, while taking into account health and safety considerations given COVID-19. “Halyn and JoJo have coordinated a wonderful CURA experience for the student leaders and participants this year,” she said.

Seeing ‘the Transformation’

Orellana said she hopes to give to new students the same attention and care she experienced in the CURA program.

“Endless hours have gone into preparing for the arrival of the first-year students, and I am thrilled to introduce them to the Hilltop,” she said. “Over the next five days, I truly can’t wait to see the transformation in each student and the wonderful memories they form. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the beginning of my last year at Georgetown.”

By Bill Cessato