Student Spotlight: Katarina Star Navarra C’21

Katarina Star Navarra C’21

What attracted you to Drew?

I graduated a year early from high school, so I was still under-age when I came to Drew. I wanted to find a college that was in state, had a great Neuroscience program, and had smaller class sizes since that was what I was used to in high school.

Why did you choose Neuroscience as a major and Russian as a minor?

I knew I wanted to study Neuroscience when I first came to Drew because during the Discover Drew Day I attended a Neuro class that made me so excited to learn more. I also knew that I wanted to eventually go into the medical field to become an MD, so that geared my drive to study premed.

I volunteered in a hospital in high school and I absolutely loved helping people. My job was to speak to the families in the surgical waiting room, and I just fell in love with being able to make people smile during stressful times. My major was heavily driven by some of the patient’s families stories I encountered, and my minor came from a need I saw in the community.

I wanted to study the Russian language because I was shocked that there were so many people who would come into the waiting room and only speak Russian. They didn’t have translators, and the doctors couldn’t give them proper updates on their families. I started trying to google translate simple phrases like “hello” and “how are you?” but never could respond beyond that. It broke my heart, and I figured if I could be a solution to the problem, why not?

Did you have an idea of a dream job when you started at Drew?

When I started Drew I wanted to be an anesthesiologist.

Have you done any internships?

I did an internship at the YMCA in Madison working with the EPOCH program for special needs children and teens. It was an amazing opportunity. I had the chance to take care of 5-10 kids during an hour of swim time and an hour of recreational games. I did my internship for the Spring semester in my Sophomore year but volunteered there for a semester prior to that. It had its challenges, but as a Neuro student, working with kids who are impacted by the same neurological conditions that we talked about in class really fostered a deeper understanding of the material I was learning about, as well as real world perspective that I couldn’t have gotten from reading a book. I absolutely adored the kids, and they made every second incredible.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

Any chance I get; I try to give a shout out to Christine Fressola, Director of Student Financial Services at Drew. She is an absolute angel. I had the opportunity to work with her through COVID, when there were only three of us able to answer emails at the student accounts office and she always made sure to check in and keep in touch despite being virtual. Since I met her, she has always been interested in how I am doing in school, and at times she was like an at-school mom. I’ve never been one to ask for help, or make a big deal out of stresses, but Christine had a knack for knowing when something was bothering me. She has always been willing to listen if I needed to talk. She is a role model like no other and I doubt I will ever have the privilege of having a boss as awesome as her again. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met!

What issue in the world means the most to you?

We need to take care of our veterans. There are so many men and women who come back from protecting us, and don’t have homes, jobs, or proper treatment. They give so much for us, and yet they are just expected to hit the ground and make it work, when many of them need help getting their civilian lives started. It is horrifying to me to think that there are so many homeless veterans, and veterans who have suffered traumatic, life altering injuries are struggling to get by because of the limited resources accessible to them.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew? 

When I saw my name on the Dean list board on the first floor of Brother’s college, I remember tearing up. It’s still my favorite memory, because it just made me so proud of my time spent studying and working so hard. I am grateful to Drew for creating an environment with incredible professors and employees who foster learning and appreciate their students, because without knowing I could always go to office hours, or take a moment of the professor’s time to ask a question, it would have made it much harder to achieve that dream of getting dean’s list.

How has your identity as a First-Generation college student affected your journey?

I remember staying at the library studying for my organic chemistry class late, and I heard the announcement that the library was closing for non-students, and I just felt so at home. I had the desk light on, and my notes spread out in front of me, and I was sitting on the silent floor and just couldn’t believe that I was so blessed to be sitting there. I’m a first gen college student, absolutely overloaded with work for the first two years in the best way, and I just was so struck by the fact that in being a college and studying as hard as I could, I could do anything.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

Just keep going. Life is hard, and college is its own beast. Sometimes you will get overwhelmed, but that means that you’re doing something right. You pushing yourself to be the best you can be, and it will be rocky at times. The first D I got on an exam was devastating to me, but it did not stop me. Failures should fuel you, not crush you. At the end of the day, be proud of yourself for doing whatever is your best. Don’t worry about what other people do or what scores they say they got because what is hard for you may be easy for them, but what is hard for them may be easy for you. You don’t see everyone else’s struggle, and believe me, everyone has that one thing, but don’t give up. Don’t stop fighting, don’t stop striving. My mom told me something in high school that still keeps me going. If you shoot for the stars and you miss, you’ll still land far beyond your own expectations.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I will get my MD and become a practicing physician. I want to be a doctor who cares about their patients, who treats the whole individual and not just the symptoms they walk in with. I can see myself working in a practice, but I think I would also like to work in a hospital for a while because I like to keep moving and keep challenging myself.

Do you have any fun facts you would like to share?

I knit, collect old books, and drink more tea than water. I adore listening to heavy metal. I can’t dance to save my life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try! 😀

Posted by Yasmin Acosta
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