With aspirations to become a PA, Goodnight Scholar and Biological Sciences major Amber Golden-Parker ‘T24, hopes to bridge the gap between mental and physical health. However, this decision didn’t come in a straight path. After overcoming outside expectations and societal structures, Amber allowed herself to grow and learned that “there is never a ‘right time’ to have a baby, get married, change careers, or go to college.”
Read our latest Goodnight Scholars Spotlight to learn more about Amber’s journey to NC State, her interest in client-centered care, and her experience as a transfer student!
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us about yourself!
I was born in Ohio but I essentially grew up in Massachusetts. Spending time near the ocean is definitely my favorite form of therapy. I moved to North Carolina in 2014 and have fallen in love with the area. Although I’m a Junior, this is my first year at NCSU, majoring in biological science.
What initially sparked your interest in becoming a PA?
I was well into my young adult life when I realized that pursuing a career as a PA was the better fit for me. I was taking an anatomy and physiology class that was a requirement for a completely different career path. As with most A&P courses, students were expected to complete weekly dissections. During the first one, I insisted on staying in the back of the group in an attempt to avoid any contact with the organism. But by the end of the dissection, I had maneuvered my way to the front of the table. I was completely hooked by the structures and physiological processes of the body. At that point, I knew I would venture down a different career path. Since then, I have become quite interested in neurobiology and chronic pain. By pursuing a career as a PA, I aim to help those with chronic pain reach a more optimal level of function.
You mentioned that you “lived your life in reverse order.” Could you tell us more about that? What are some of the challenges and successes you’ve found along the way?
Growing up, I was highly influenced by the Disney princess movies. The message often illustrated how a woman’s happiness is directly linked to her ability to fall in love and start a family. As I became a teenager, societal expectations were shifting towards attending college and establishing a career as a “strong woman.” Although these were the expectations, I walked a far different path as I became a single mother to phenomenal children. With this road came many challenges, and far more successes.
Unfortunately, I let the world make me feel like I had somehow failed. I remained “stuck” in this mentality for some time. But as time went on and the opportunity was feasible, I returned to my academic career. A short time after that I married my best friend who I had lived with for almost 7 years! All of this to say that it can be easy to let society or other outside expectations dictate our path, but there is never really a “right time” to have a baby, get married, change careers, or go to college. It is okay to not know what your path is or to take a left turn when you least expect it. What I have found to be more important is the ability to persevere while remaining present and connected with those that are most important.
What impact do you wish to have on your field?
By pursuing a career as a physician assistant, I hope to help bridge the gap between mental and physical health. Being a pediatric occupational therapy assistant, I’ve had the opportunity to treat clients in areas related to mental, physical, and social development. In doing so, I have gained an interesting perspective on the importance of holistic and client-centered care. Oftentimes, mental illness will influence physical illness and vice versa. Being someone who has experienced challenges with both, I have felt the frustrations related to the lack of cohesiveness between disciplines. In the future, I hope to explore, research, and develop models of care that will better help connect various professions to provide more holistic care.
As a transfer student, how have you been able to bridge your experiences in your community college with your experiences at NC State? What advice would you tell other transfer students interested in coming to this institution?
One of the luxuries of attending Durham Technical Community College was the ease of navigating a smaller campus and attending smaller classes. Building relationships with the professors was quite easy, which helped develop a strong support for academic success. During my first semester at NC State, I felt overwhelmed and out of place. I had lost my sense of belonging. It was important for me to break out of my comfort zone. In doing so I have built new relationships and I have enjoyed getting familiar with the campus. So my advice for transfer students would be to welcome those uncomfortable feelings and allow yourself to grow. I also think it is important to break out of your comfort zone to find your niche at NCSU. Lastly, I would recommend taking it easy, academically, during your first semester. In other words, register for a mix of low and high-level classes. That way you can get acclimated to campus life without hindering academic performance.
Tell us about your experience so far in the Goodnight Scholars Program. What does it mean to you to be a part of the Goodnight Scholars Program community and what has been your favorite part about the program so far?
Entering NCSU as a Goodnight Scholar has been an incredible journey thus far. Although we are all connected through our passion for STEM, the diversity within the program is phenomenal. I truly enjoy listening to the conversations going on in the Goodnight lounge. It has been an honor to share, learn, and grow with such a wonderful group of scholars. I also enjoy the events offered within the program. Whether I am in need of personal/professional development or a break from academics, the Goodnight pro staff consistently offer a variety of opportunities.
Photography Credit: Rhiannon See, Goodnight Scholars Program