Kjersti Kleine '17
Hometown: Cary, North Carolina
Major: Health Sciences
As a sophomore, Kjersti received an email from health sciences professor Meghan Slining, Ph.D., encouraging her to attend an advocacy summit hosted by Save the Children, an organization dedicated to childhood health. The catch? She’d be by herself. In Washington, D.C.
For the “timid and apprehensive” Kjersti who arrived at Furman, that may have been a deal breaker. For the Kjersti who had spent a year gaining confidence as a Fellow with the Shucker Leadership Institute (SLI), however, it was an opportunity.
“I flew completely alone. I was the only person I knew there,” she said. “It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I felt like I used the skills that I learned from Shucker to meet new people and talk to a lot of important people and gain connections.”
That new confidence continued to grow under the guiding hand of Slining, who would become her mentor, and in the process the want to help communities Kleine has had for as long as she can remember became a do that is poised to shape the rest of her life.
After completing the two-year SLI program, Kjersti served as its student director as a junior before working as a Shucker intern this year. Meanwhile, she started a Save the Children Action Network branch at Furman and continued to work closely with Slining as she prepares to pursue a career in public health.
Kleine joined Slining in Nicaragua for a May Experience class and is collaborating on a research project involving LiveWell Greenville, a coalition of more than 150 organizations in Greenville County that promote healthy eating and active living.
“She has definitely empowered me and showed me how you can combine your strengths and your passions and do positive work in your community,” Kleine said of Slining. “I’m still looking at my options, but I love the idea of connecting a lot of different pieces and parts and working toward implementing programs that can improve community health.”