The list is long and impressive—full-ride scholarships to Stanford, Vanderbilt, Swarthmore, and Spellman, just to name a few.  Jayla chose Johns Hopkins University, home of the “Hela Cells,” an immortal line of life-saving matter harvested from Henrietta Lacks, in 1951. Jayla herself comes from a long line of strong women—a Norwegian grandmother whose meteoric rise in illegal trade led to one of Oregon’s most notorious cold cases, a mother whose Las Vegas story included incarceration and addiction, all successfully overcome. The history is there. But Jayla is constructing a self tirelessly made in her own image, as she completes her first year in International Studies and Medicine. 


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The medical profession is missing something. Black women are dying at a faster rate than any other population. There are so many things that imperil the health of Black women. One of those things is that we don’t have people who look like us, treating us. I’ve always wanted to help people. I want to help families like ours. It has not been easy. There have been times when it was so hard, and school became my safe place. I took solace in my education, knowing where it could possibly lead me. And when you balance belief in yourself and belief in a higher power, all the past starts to heal. I have to believe the pain you go through was just so that you could give joy to someone else. My eventual goal is to be a medical liaison for the United Nations Refugee Agency.