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HDFS Student Transforms Passion for Working With Children Into Career Path
Kingston, Jamaica, and Syracuse, New York, are about 1,700 miles apart, and it’s not easy getting from one place to the other.
For Raven Campbell ’24, who grew up in Jamaica and moved to the United States when she was 14, the journey to her chosen career path has at times felt just as long and daunting.
But in conversations with her family and Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics advisor, Colleen Cameron, and through out-of-classroom experiences such as her observership this past spring at a hospital in Kingston, Campbell has transformed her passion for working with children into her career goals of becoming a child life specialist and then a developmental pediatrician.
While pediatricians offer general primary care services to children, developmental pediatricians assist in specific difficulties, struggles or deficiencies in the growth and development of a child. “I’ve always had a love for children and felt a spark when I was around them,” says Campbell. “But career-wise, I didn’t know what I was going to do.
“I had my first class with Professor Cameron, and she was talking about child life, and I thought that was something I wanted to do,” Campbell continues. “As time passed, I wanted to do more with that and this spring in Jamaica I met a developmental pediatrician and learned that’s something I’m interested in doing while also getting my child life specialist certification.”
Cameron, a professor of practice in the Department of Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) at Falk College, says Campbell’s child life coursework has provided a foundation that will benefit her as a developmental pediatrician because the curriculum focuses on the impact of illness, injury, trauma and hospitalization on human development. “Raven’s ambition to pursue dual credentials makes sense to me because she’s someone who wants to leave no stone unturned and is deeply committed to providing exceptional care to children and families,” says Cameron. “It takes a lot of work to become certified, but she sees the value in the knowledge, skills, and abilities of child life specialists and how having that skillset can take you far in meeting the needs of children, youth, families, and communities.”
‘Children Gravitate Toward Her’
Born in Brooklyn, Campbell moved to Kingston with her family when she was a baby. She grew up in a house that centered on children and education as her mother, Pauladene Steele, is in her 23rd year as a teacher, Coordinator of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, and now Vice Principal at the Hillel Academy, a private international school in Kingston. “I saw very early that how she interacted with children really stood out,” says Steele. “I found it unique that children–ones she knew and ones she didn’t know–would easily gravitate toward her and it became more pronounced as she started to interact in Sunday School at church.
“She had this calming effect where children were involved,” says Steele. “And she could take on the identity of an older one, a little one, a baby; she had that fluidity in terms of engaging and interacting with all children.”
When she was 14, Campbell moved to the United States to live with her uncle (Steele’s brother) in Virginia. Steele wanted her daughter to have a U.S. education, and Campbell spent four years at Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia. During that time, Campbell’s aunt had a baby, Mialani, and Campbell is proud to say that she helped raise her. While enjoying the time with her cousin, Campbell started to become curious about child development and the cultural differences between the United States and Jamaica. “In Jamaican culture, it’s normal for conversations you have with a child to be more like the conversations you have with adults; it’s not baby talk,’” says Campbell. “With food as well; people here tend to wean their kids into solid foods, but Jamaican people give babies various kinds of foods from an early age. I had a different perspective than other people because I grew up in a Jamaican family and things were so different.”
When she was a senior in high school, which was also the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell became ill with sepsis and had to be hospitalized. Sepsis is a serious condition that occurs when the body’s immune system has an extreme response to an infection. “After the care she received, she said, ‘Mom, I really want to work in a hospital. I don’t want to be a medical doctor, but I want to work in a hospital and work with children,’” says Steele. “She thought a big part of her recovery was because of the attention and care she received from the different practitioners who helped her, and she wanted to do just that.”
Please visit the Falk College website to read more about Campbell’s journey to Syracuse University.