As a young child, Jalyssa Steele remembers, she wanted to be a sonographer. "I knew radiology was the way to go," she said.
But, her health education path took a turn when she enrolled in the surgery technician program at Meridian Community College, graduating in 2011.
Today, the University of Mississippi Medical Center surgery tech in labor and delivery has expanded her career options. She's receiving a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences this month from the School of Health Related Professions and preparing to continue her education in nuclear medicine technology.
"I thought, 'Let's just go back,' " Steele said of her decision to continue her studies at SHRP.
She plans to continue working part-time at UMMC while she enters the next phase of study. "I'll start back to school May 26, and the new program will take me a year," said Steele, 26, a DeKalb native and graduate of Kemper County High.
Steele isn't skipping a beat as she transitions from one program of study to another. During her tenure so far at SHRP, she's gathered a number of awards, including the $4,000 Royce Osborn Minority Student Scholarship from the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. Only five radiologic sciences students nationally were chosen for the scholarship, which is presented to those in entry-level radiography, sonography, magnetic resonance imaging, radiation therapy, or nuclear medicine technology programs.
"It meant so much to get that scholarship," said Steele, a Brandon resident. "There were others who were just as competitive as I was, and it was such an amazing opportunity to put money toward something I really love."
Steele took part in the 2014 Student Leadership Academy at the ASRT Educational Symposium and Annual Governance and House of Delegates Meeting in Orlando. She also serves as one of two student delegates to the Mississippi Society of Radiologic Technologists.
"The key word to describe Jalyssa is initiative," said Dr. Kristi Moore, associate professor and director of the radiologic sciences program. "She really takes the initiative to go above and beyond and to seek out opportunities. She wants to be a leader, and she's the type who goes for it and works hard for it."
It's especially noteworthy, Moore said, that Steele has worked on weekends and attended class during the week, at the same time taking part in conferences and other leadership activities on the state and national levels.
"Since she came into our program, she's been very service oriented," Moore said. "She's the type of student to go above and beyond to get involved in leadership opportunities. She's been a wonderful student."
In the future, Steele says, she wants to expand her horizons just a bit more.
"I want to find a job in nuclear medicine, but to continue to practice as a surgical tech just to keep my skills up," she said. "And, I want to get married. I want to start a family, and to start off my life."