Olympia High School graduated roughly 800 students in May, but there was only one senior who can say she was enrolled at three schools at the same time.
Queeny José holds that distinction, having already taken classes at both Valencia College and Orange Technical College – Westside Campus during her senior year of high school.
She began her trio of educational facilities because she wanted to make better use of her time.
“I started Valencia first because I wanted to manage my time better,” José said. “I walked there from home. So, instead of doing all seven AP (classes) or even five, let me go to Valencia and get college credit; and I was close to home and I didn’t have to go every day.”
She did take two Advance Placement courses in her last year at Olympia: calculus and chemistry. She said she regrets not taking more AP classes, but she loaded up on honors courses, afraid to take anything more difficult since she was still grasping the English language after coming to the United States from Haiti in 2010.
In addition to this class load, she took morning classes at Westside in the two-year medical assistant program.
“I’m interested in medicine,” José said. “I wanted an insight of what it would be like to be in the medical program.”
She didn’t let a lack of transportation stop her, either. She rode the bus to high school each morning and then hopped on a bus waiting to take her to Westside, in Winter Garden. There, she participated in laboratory and classroom activities, first learning medical terminology and what is expected of a medical student. The second year was a more hands-on experience and involved activities such as learning how to take a pulse and how to perform an electrocardiogram.
José credits instructor Suzanne Kerr and program director Melinda Garcia, with fueling her passion to help others.
Last year, José represented OTC at Skills USA, where she competed against other high-school students in a medical terminology competition. She took first place in the regional competition and received the silver award in the state. As a member of Health Occupations Students of America, she has participated in other technical-skills competitions and has learned about various health professions.
Meanwhile, still in her senior year of high school, José took macroeconomics, government and two freshman composition courses at Valencia, as well, all of which transferred this summer to the University of Florida, where she is majoring in health science.
In addition, she has worked outside the classroom, too, obtaining more than 100 hours of community service at Health Central Hospital, in Ocoee.
DEDICATION TO COMMUNITY
José’s desire to become an epidemiologist stems from her childhood in her home country of Haiti. She and her mother, Marielle Jose-Giraud, were living there — while her father, Jean Austa José, was working in the United States to build a better life for his family — when, in 2010, a catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the island of Hispaniola.
She and her mother escaped serious injury despite being in their house when it was destroyed. But the deadly outbreak of cholera that coursed throughout the island had a profound impact on the 10-year-old, and this would eventually lead her into the medical field.
“I experienced what it did to my community by hearing from whole family members getting cholera — not dying but having a hard time getting treated,” said José, who immigrated with her mother to the U.S. two years later.
“That’s when I became passionate about being an infectious disease physician, an epidemiologist,” she said. “I plan to absolutely go back home, because that’s where my passion is, my community and my nation. But I also want to go to other countries to treat people with any infectious diseases.”
Her current plan is to obtain her bachelor’s degree and then continue with a master’s degree in public health.
GIVING HER GUIDANCE
José credits Renee Hudson, her college transition counselor at Olympia, for assisting her along the way.
“She worked with me my senior year,” she said. “She’s really like my rock, she keeps up with me. She pointed out applications to college, helped me with applying to college (and for) scholarships. She was really helpful.”
Their friendship grew when José became a participant in Hudson’s nonprofit organization, The Plug. She participated in SAT prep sessions and a mentoring program and received hands-on support to reach her postsecondary goals.
José earned a full scholarship to UF through the Mathen Florida Opportunity Scholars program. She received multiple local scholarships, too.
“She is absolutely phenomenal,” Hudson said. “Resilient, focused, kind and committed. She is a forever learner and has clearly defined academic and professional goals. I am blessed to have met her and to be a part of her life during this journey.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.