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Do a Little Good Every Day

Making the Path a Little Easier

If it seems impossible to connect fish, hand statues, and Korean children, you have clearly never met senior Honors student, Sarah Jarrett. As she prepares to graduate in December 2021, Sarah reflected on the many adventures she has taken as an undergraduate as she prepared to apply to medical school. The most striking feature was Sarah’s dedication to serving minority populations and helping children succeed.

Growing up Asian American in predominantly white West Valley, Utah, Sarah often struggled being labeled as the “Other.” Often these jibes were as simple as people teasing her for her favorite childhood foods or about how her household was run. She questioned her own racial identity, and further struggled to find her place as part of the LGBTQ community. When she finally reconciled these pieces of herself, Sarah swore that she would help other minority students to make their path a little easier than her own was.

Achieving this goal required Sarah to work at odd times and in stressful situations. It is not uncommon for Sarah to start work at 11pm at night when she hops onto the first of many Zoom calls to teach English to students in Korea. Many of her students hope to visit or live in America one day, and overcoming the language barrier is often key to success in the US. On these calls, Sarah also teaches about American culture and holidays so that the Korean students can be better acclimated to foreign American practices. If she is not teaching Korean students, Sarah may be talking to youth experiencing mental crises in her position as a counselor for the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth who are contemplating suicide or are in a dark place. As a counselor, Sarah volunteers her time on their crisis hotline where she talks to at-risk youth and encourages them to seek help. This work is incredibly important to her because she wishes she had access to these resources when she was growing up.

Her volunteering does not stop there though. Sarah is also a coordinator for Anatomy Academy where she teaches middle school students about the human body through models and activities. The goals of the program are to inspire students to pursue a career in medicine as well as to promote healthy living early in kids' lives. To balance out working with children, Sarah also works with Intermountain Healthcare’s Hospice program. She visits two patients a week and gets to be a companion to them in their final months. Though it can be emotionally draining, Sarah sees the benefit of her visits every week as the patients glow when they see her. In addition to visiting, Sarah takes hand molds of the hospice patients so that the families have a cast of their loved ones' hands. Sarah mostly does molds for younger patients with terminal cancer since the families of pediatric patients often need the most comfort.

As she continues to give back to her community, Sarah says she has been blessed in return. This summer, Sarah was selected to be part of the Medical Admission Preparatory Program (MAPP) at the University of Utah. Her cohort were minorities of all sorts -- ethnic minorities, gender, or sexual orientation minorities. She had a medical student mentor who could answer her questions, participated in MCAT preparatory classes, and met with the Dean of Inclusivity. Being part of the program solidified Sarah’s passion for helping other minority students and for the medical field.

Now Sarah is finishing her Honors thesis with Dr. Arminda Suli, Associate Professor of Cell Biology & Physiology. Sarah researches the optic tectum in the eyes of zebrafish. It helps the fish regulate their sleep-wake cycles, migration patterns, and mating cycles. Knocking out certain genes in the optic tectum can allow labs to test light stimulation on deeper brain photoreceptors. Using a fish model, Sarah hopes to understand a similar structure in humans that can affect our production of hormones, sleep cycles, and even our susceptibility to jet lag after long flights.

Sarah’s constant refrain is to find a way to give back in even the smallest way. It doesn't have to be a big commitment- even volunteering an hour a week could make a difference in someone's life. So, go out and do some good today!

Sarah Jarrett is a Physiology and Developmental Biology major from West Valley, Utah. She will be graduating in December 2021 and applying to medical school in May. During her gap year, she hopes to visit Korea since she has not visited in 12 years, and work in a medical clinic in Orem for clinical experience. Hopefully, she will fit in a humanitarian trip to Uganda to work in an eye clinic in Kampala. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys performing with one of the 10 instruments she knows how to play or swimming laps. She has completed two triathlons while at BYU and is hoping to complete a third before medical school takes all of her free time!