Grace Sewell has always been passionate about health care. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a doctor or nurse. Shortly after beginning college, she realized the realities of her childhood dream were not what she expected.
“I realized, I don’t want to treat people, but I want to help people and I want to learn,” she remembers. “So, I was up late Googling, and that’s how I found the field of public health.” Thanks to this late-night search, she changed direction, and after finishing her degree at Lone Star College, she applied to University of Houston to study health education.
As a health education major, Sewell learned the primary level to disease prevention is the first line of defense; it’s everything health workers do to prevent the onset of a disease. The key to providing health care at the primary level is health education. It’s the idea that, as Sewell phrases it, “If you know better, you do better.” People are empowered to take better care of themselves when they are better educated.
This message feels especially potent for Sewell as she chooses to pursue her degree while managing her responsibilities as a wife and mother. Although this balancing act can be challenging, she believes firmly in the power that education gives a person. She explains why she made this choice, “It’s an investment in myself and an investment in my family. For my daughter’s future to be secure, I need to go back to school, and put in this time.”
Sewell empathizes with other parents who must make this choice. She knows it isn’t easy. When she started classes at UH in 2022, it was her third time attempting to enroll. Every other time, she decided to wait because the timing wasn’t right. Then she recognized, “There’s never going to be a right time to do it. You just have to get in there and do it.”
“There’s never going to be a right time to do it. You just have to get in there and do it.”
Fortunately, she received extra encouragement in the form of a scholarship from the Dodds Family Endowment. The scholarship is awarded by the College of Education Scholarship Committee to full-time juniors and seniors seeking a degree from the University of Houston. She is so grateful for the scholarship that she actually visited Farish Hall and searched until she found the Dodds Family's donor plaque.
In addition to financial support, Sewell continues to be motivated thanks to Professor Jennifer Farmer, the inspiring mentor she met in her program. Farmer is a certified health education specialist who, prior to coming here, worked for public health districts and hospital districts, helping to develop and implement teen pregnancy prevention programs.
“Dr. Jennifer Farmer has this background that is so similar to mine, and she’s done all these different things that I want to do with my life,” Sewell shares. “When I met her, I was like, ‘I need to talk to you immediately.’ When I got into her class, it was almost like a sign that I was on the right path.”
In addition to her studies, Sewell works as an Advancement Ambassador, a student group whose mission is to connect UH donors, alumni, volunteers, and community members with students, in meaningful ways to grow the student body’s awareness of alumni and philanthropy. This fundraising work has encouraged her to find a way to give back in the future.
“Being a scholarship recipient, I want to be able to do that for someone else,” Sewell shares. “No amount is too small to make a difference. $250? That’s a textbook. $1,000? That can be make-or-break for someone to take classes.”
Sewell knows firsthand the value of a scholarship extends beyond its monetary number. A scholarship has the power to enable a person to overcome any challenges to stay in school.