From the backstreets of Reno to the forefront of the eyes of the Pearson Foundation, Jarell Green has come a long way. The University of Nevada, Reno nursing major recently received the title of National Fellow of the Pearson Prize for Higher Education, a distinguishing prize awarded to just 20 students nationwide who have demonstrated leadership in community service.
“The honor is amazing,” Green said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
In order to receive the title, Green had to complete multiple essays, collect a letter of recommendation and create a YouTube video about his contributions to the community.
“This title is huge,” he said. “Many of the other videos were by people from institutions such as Harvard and Yale. To be in the same category as them is unbelievable.”
The honor serves as for a reminder of just how far Green has come. He recalled where his journey began nearly 21 years ago, and reminisced on his long, hard struggle.
“I grew up with my mom in the Reno housing projects until middle school,” he recalled. “There were drugs, gangs and prostitution.”
He remembered the problems his mother faced, including bipolar disorder, multiple sclerosis, time in a rehabilitation center and cancer. Her illnesses were a motivation for him to pursue a medical degree, and his desire to help led him to the University. Sadly, Green was unable to share his accomplishments with his mother, as she passed away three weeks before his first semester.
Green also received inspiration for his education from his grandmother and from his girlfriend, Brittnee Sireika.
“My grandmother or anyone who didn’t live in similar circumstances didn’t fully understand what life was like for me,” he said. “But she still continued to encourage me and always pushed the importance of an education. My girlfriend was always supportive, especially after my mom died. We’ve been together for five years now.”
Encouragement and aid came in other forms as well. In his freshman year, just as Green began to worry about finances, he met Ellen Houston through the University’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity. She introduced him to a new world.
“Not only did she help me with financial aid and plug me into numerous opportunities,” he said, “but she referred me to the TRiO Scholars Program.”
That same year, Green testified at the Nevada Legislature in support of the University’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity and TRiO, a federal outreach and student services program helping low-income, first-generation students to succeed in higher education. Today, as a junior, Green holds jobs at both of the programs; mentoring and tutoring students at the University, and volunteering at Hug High School.
“Without TRiO, I wouldn’t be involved in half of what I’m involved in,” he said. “It gave me a sense of community on campus.”
Green also found other ways to serve the community. He mentors two students at Wooster High School through Youth Matter Now., He also volunteers with Pathfinders Youth Ministry, representing Summit Christian Fellowship, which he attends on a regular basis. He plans to use his college education and volunteer experience to continue working with at-risk youth and sharing his faith.
The title of National Fellow comes with a $10,000 award and a trip this August to the Pearson Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. For Green, traveling anywhere outside of Reno will be a new experience.
“It’s still not sunk in yet,” he said.
Whenever he can find a spare moment, Green enjoys being with family and friends and playing basketball and soccer. He also considers himself a Harry Potter fanatic.
“I mostly watch Sports Center, but if I can throw a Harry Potter movie in there, I’m good,” he said with a grin.