While many KU students were relaxing, hitting the beach and soaking up the rays this summer, University Honors Program student Ryan Steele spent three weeks in Guatemala City, doing hands-on medical work in a government-run free health clinic.
Ryan, a Springfield, Mo., junior human biology and pre-med major, used money from the Honors Program Opportunity Fund to help pay for his trip with Cross-Cultural Solutions. His first day in the clinic, after seeing just one injection, he jumped right in, giving patients Vitamin B injections.
“I worked with the doctors, helped taking blood pressure, giving vaccinations to kids. Whatever needed to be done, I was helping out with. The people there understood that I was a student – they wanted to show me and help me practice,” he said.
Ryan was not completely new to health care before he went on the trip. For one, his parents are both medical professionals – his dad a pediatrician and his mom a speech pathologist – and for two, he also obtained his EMT license this summer. But still, being involved with health care in a developing country was an experience that had an impact on him.
“I am so thankful for the Honors alumni. Their donations sent me to Guatemala. That was fantastic, and I can’t express my gratitude enough for that opportunity,” Ryan said.
He hopes to go abroad on a medical mission again, possibly this time with fellow Honors students, who he says have inspired him and pushed him in his career goals.
“All these other kids are doing grandiose activities. You want to be a part of that conversation,” Ryan said. “Everybody in the program is driven. You’re never going to meet anyone who isn’t constantly pushing themselves. But at the same time, they want to see their classmates succeed. That is the level of community that Honors classes and the Honors Program provide.”
Before he committed to KU as a high school senior, Ryan and his mom – who wasn’t yet sold on KU – attended the Honors Program spring reception to learn more about the opportunities KU and Honors had to offer.
“We left that spring reception with our jaws on the floor. We heard the credentials of the incoming class, and I looked at my mom and said, ‘Are we sure I got accepted?’ The Honors Program is impressive,” he said. “Other students chose to come here instead of the Ivy League or somewhere else for a reason. That’s something I wanted to be a part of.”
Ryan took Honors classes in English and Spanish his first semester at KU and quickly learned that he was where he belonged. His Honors advisers and staff have helped him brainstorm ideas and opportunities.
“I have all these people who want me to succeed. I think that makes me that much more confident to go out and find opportunities,” he said.
Some of those opportunities have not been as far away as Guatemala. Ryan has volunteered at KU’s Language Acquisition Preschool, working with children who have speech or hearing challenges, or who are learning English as a Second Language.
Ryan will take the MCAT this spring, with plans to go to medical school after graduating from KU. He doesn’t know yet what his specialty might be, but he will continue to seek out experiences to help guide him toward the career path that is right for him.
“The past three years of my life have been a series of me stumbling backwards into some really cool things. I have never second-guessed my decision to come to KU,” he said.
To help create transformative experiences for Honors students like Ryan, go to the Honors Giving Page.