For Jalesa Poindexter ’13, her life story comes full circle. The summer before her senior year at GPS, she fell ill and was forced to spend time at Erlanger Hospital regaining her health. Fortunately, her medical team took great care of her, and she was able to return to school, graduate, and head off to the University of Kentucky. Her time in the hospital inspired her, and she decided to pursue a career in the medical field. She earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing at UK, and today works as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at—you guessed it—Erlanger Hospital.
Q. How did you get into what you’re doing now? Did you always know you wanted to become a nurse?
A. I wanted to become a nurse after my own stay in the hospital the summer prior to my senior year at GPS. I was very sick, and my nurses were amazing. They were caring, compassionate, and made sure to make me as comfortable as they could, and they made sure that my parents were taken care of as well. I knew I wanted to be that person for others. I’ve also always loved children, so a career where I got to take care of them was the dream.
Q. Why are you passionate about what you do?
A. Children are so innocent. They don’t ask to be sick or get hurt. Being a part of the team that helps get them healthy is rewarding. I like to make a difference if I can, and being a nurse affords me that opportunity every shift I work.
Q. What was your favorite tradition at GPS? Why?
A. The class rings for sure! I usually have my ring on at all times, and it’s refreshing having other people ask about it because it’s so unique and elegant. It really does stand out, as it should. And then, it’s a way to connect you to other girls who have attended GPS. You’re reminded of the bond that you share when you look at the ring.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you got during your time at GPS? Do you remember who it came from?
A. The best piece of advice that I received came from my 12th-grade English teacher, Mrs. Carol Killebrew. I had my Chapel Talk done and wanted her to look over it. She made me scrap the whole thing because it didn’t sound like me. I remember her saying something like, “This isn’t you at all. Just be yourself. Redo this.” And that has always stuck with me—to be myself in every situation.
Q. If you could offer one piece of advice to current GPS students, what would it be?
A. Take advantage of everything that GPS has to offer! There are so many opportunities that are unique to GPS. You won’t find those things anywhere else, so make the most of them while you’re there. You will definitely look back and be grateful for these things and wish you had done more!
Q. Do you stay in touch with your classmates? What impact have they had on your life?
A. Absolutely! I met some of my closest friends at GPS. We might not talk every single day, but when we do, it’s like we haven’t missed a beat. We went from eating lunch and getting ready for football games together to celebrating college graduations and major achievements. They have seen me at my lowest and celebrated me at my highest. They are the true definition of friendship, and I am so grateful for them.
Q. Can you point to anything that GPS did to prepare you for your future?
A. There is a certain level of expectation to be the best you can be when you attend GPS. The curriculum is designed to push you and prepare you for college. From exam week to the implementation of 75-minute classes, everything is done intentionally to help with that next step. Not only does GPS push you to be your best, it provides the necessary resources to help you reach your full potential if you put in the work. And because of this expectation, my transition to college was smooth and easy.
Q. What is a GPS girl to you?
A. A GPS girl is someone who is confident in herself and her abilities. She doesn’t make herself smaller to make others comfortable nor does she treat others poorly to make herself look better. She stands firm on her beliefs and knows her limitations. She advocates for herself and on the behalf of those who aren’t able to do so. She is the embodiment of strength, perseverance, and determination.
Q. What is your proudest accomplishment thus far?
A. Becoming a nurse, for sure. This field is so demanding yet so rewarding. Knowing that I am impacting someone’s life every time I step foot in the hospital is such an amazing feeling. I’ve learned so much in so little time, and I still have more to learn, which is the beauty of working in this field. There is always room to learn and grow more.
Q. Are there any experiences or memories from your time at GPS that really stand out?
A. I have my own cupcake business, and it honestly started at GPS. Almost every week I would bake different flavors of cupcakes and bring them to the student center and let my friends critique them. Who knew that years later it would turn into an actual business?! So, to everyone who ever tried a cupcake, thank you!
Another one is that I took ceramics my senior year with Mrs. (Isabel) McCall. For one of our projects, I decided to make a life-sized Beyoncé body. I don’t consider myself creative, so I’m not sure why I decided to do this. It was a huge undertaking, and I bit off more than I could chew. I spent the whole semester working on this project and even came in after school and after I graduated to work on it. I wanted to give up many times, but Mrs. McCall never let me. She encouraged me frequently and was so proud when I finished it. It was such a great accomplishment!