Jessica Thompson grew up in a small town surrounded by selfless people who were always looking out for others. She credits her family and her community for her volunteer spirit. As a sophomore in high school, Jessica went on a mission trip to Nicaragua with her church. There she served on the medical team, fell in love with the country and found her passion for nursing.
“When people would ask me what I wanted to do I always knew I wanted to do something to help people, but I never knew what that was or how I was going to do it. I guess nursing just kind of fell in my lap through Nicaragua,” Jessica said.
Jessica knew Nicaragua wouldn’t be her last nursing trip abroad, so imagine her excitement when she was able to go to Haiti with Mission of Hope for her spring break trip in 2015.
Mission of Hope is an organization that provides Haitian children with food, puts kids through schools, develops successful orphanages and much more. They also train the Haitian people on how to run these organizations themselves in order for them to become self-sustaining.
Haiti holds a special place in Jessica’s heart due to all the friendships she made with the people there. Her favorite memory of Haiti is of a small girl who was always following her around, holding her hand and waiting eagerly by the bus for Jessica to get off. Jessica expressed that even though they couldn’t speak the same language they had a special connection that she’ll never forget.
“It was all about developing relationships with people that are deeper than the conversations you can have with words. All these trips I’ve been on I’ve experienced that. It’s an unspoken bond that restores your faith in humanity,” Jessica said.
Jessica’s experience abroad doesn’t stop there. Last December, Jessica went to Panama on a global medical training trip. The main goal of this trip was to develop medical skills necessary to treat people in less-fortunate countries. Students were able to see patients and diagnose them with the help of doctors.
In two weeks, you can find Jessica in Belize with the University of Tennessee’s nursing program.
Even though these trips have only strengthened Jessica’s passion for nursing, she’s tired of making week-long trips and wants to be able to spend an extended amount of time abroad in an attempt to make a greater impact on these communities. As for her future plans, Jessica wants to become a nurse practitioner and open her own clinic in Haiti.
Until then, Jessica is happy to be at the University of Tennessee serving her own community through the Student Nurses Association, For The Kids @ UTK, and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.
Jessica explained that stepping out of her comfort zone was one of the biggest obstacles for her. Saying “yes” to all these opportunities is part of what made her who she is today.
“I try my best to lead by example. I hope people can see what I’m doing and it call out to them in a special way. That’s how I became the way I am because that’s what I grew up around,” Jessica said.
Jessica Thompson is a 20-year-old nursing major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville from Dyersburg, Tenn.