|Graduation at UW-Madison
In Service to the Community
Jada Thompson volunteered as an EMT
during her UW Madison career.
been getting. We edit our training as needed. This is all volunteer with Bellville Area Emergency Medical Services.
Also in preparation for the medical field, Thompson completed an internship in Milwaukee at the Medical College of Wisconsin where she worked in the Department
of Pharmacology and Toxicology specializing in kidney research.
While a commitment to serving people was the driving force in Thompson’s UW-Madison career, what gave her support was UW-Madison’s Center for Educational
Opportunity or CeO, which grew out of the federally funded TRIO Program to assist first generation and students from economically-challenged families. Thompson
appreciated the support.
“I spent a lot of time at the CeO offices in Ingraham Hall studying, chatting with people,” Thompson said. “They have this back room called the Scholars Den. A lot of
us joked around fighting over our “office” space. It was a small space that was quiet and really nice. All of the events that happened in the CeO office were nice.
People were willing to just talk to you when we had a quick question or something deeper to talk about. There was always someone available.”
And it cut down on the feeling of isolation that many students of color feel on the UW-Madison campus.
“Even before I officially started at UW-Madison, we had several events where we were able to get to know our fellow CeO students and who would be our mentors
and leadership for all four years here,” Thompson said. “It was also nice some people from my high school were also in CeO. Throughout that experience, it’s been
nice to have that original group of people with that familiarity and comfort. It was also nice to have that mentorship with older students and students who had taken
classes that I hadn’t taken yet. It’s been a real asset to my growth here.”
Like other UW-Madison students and staff, Thompson was almost blindsided when COVID-19 hit and the university closed down at the tail-end of her collegiate
“The first week or two of quarantine, it was just after spring break when they officially announced that we would not be coming back to campus,” Thompson said.
“This year, I was in my apartment in Madison by myself for a bit, still running EMT shifts. Eventually one of my roommates came back because she also works in
health care at a phlebotomy center here in Madison. It was nice having her around. Now that her home state is opening back up, the stores and stuff, she’s going
back to her full-time employment there. So now I just continue to go for walks and exercise. I read and watch shows on Netflix. I’m also looking into new hobbies
and interests as well.”
Thompson plans to go on with her academic career. While right now she is taking a “gap” year to earn some money as a nanny for a family in Middleton and
continue her EMT volunteerism and training. She plans to earn a master’s degree in the sciences and then enter an MD or MD/MBA program. So for her, missing out
on graduation was hard, but she knew she had more to come. She is more concerned for students whose academic careers are coming to a close.
“Graduating virtually from UW-Madison was a little anticlimactic,” Thompson said. “Thankfully, I have other graduations to look forward to because I know that I am
pursuing more education. But I know for some of these students, this is devastating if they are first generation, if they are from underrepresented backgrounds and
things like that, I am sure it is very difficult for them to not have that culminating event to mark this great accomplishment. I think for me, this sucks, but I’m going to
find a way to make the most of it. I ended up picking up an extra EMT shift that weekend. And actually on the day of graduation, my roommate called me with some
sort of emergency crisis. I had to leave my shift early and come home. Come to find out, my family and friends had a surprise party outside six feet apart. It was a
surprise party. It was a very nice moment to make up for the graduation. I think it was there that I was like, ‘This is a huge milestone. Although I have other things to
look forward to, I shouldn’t underestimate this moment.’”
And while there wasn’t any CeO graduation party where students get to express gratitude to those who helped them reach this milestone and cry a little as they
realize they will be leaving the safe confines of the CeO family, Thompson did have a moment that at least partially made up for it. She appeared on CBS Sunday
Morning in an interview with Rita Braver, a UW-Madison alum, an interview facilitated by the CeO staff.
“I filmed it in my apartment in my bedroom,” Thompson said. “I set up a few lamps and stacked my computer on top of a couple of books and made my own studio
here. I created my own backdrop. I had to make sure that all of the books were stacked neatly and my bed wasn’t too disheveled. It was comfortable being at home,
but it would have been nice to be outside interacting with people. It was shown on May 17th around 9:20 a.m. Eastern time.”
Thompson has a serene, confident sense about her, perhaps ingrained in her by her EMT experience and her naturally kind disposition. She seems ready to handle
anything. Even in a pandemic, Thompson sees opportunity.
“I think this is a great opportunity to learn more about oneself,” Thompson said. “Spending time alone is very difficult for anyone. And with other issues going on, it’
s going to be an increased challenge. But I think there is opportunity to make a valid effort to get outside, to read more, to connect with family and friends whom we
haven’t spoken to in a while just to make the most of it.”
Ideally, Thompson would like to become a pediatric and fetal surgeon, specializing in fetal abnormalities like birth defects. The children would not be in better hands.
By Jonathan Gramling
Community service runs in Jada Thompson’s family. Her father was a police officer in Milwaukee and as she began
her middle school years, Thompson began to prepare for her passion of serving others through the medical field
when she took an interest in public health and community-based work. In high school, Thompson’s dreams became
“I went to the Milwaukee School of Languages,” Thompson said. “I actually had a mentor in high school. She’s a
physician at Froedtert Hospital. I got to shadow her and get to know her very well. She is a UW alumni. She inspired
me to attend UW-Madison.”
And like her mentor, Thompson majored in French on a pre-med track.
“Having gone to a language school my entire life, I certainly wanted to continue that and language is very useful. It’
s going to allow me to communicate with a lot more people from a lot of different backgrounds as well,” Thompson
said. “That’s why I continue that education, but also include all of the studies I would need for medical school.”
Thompson also wanted to stay close to medical services — as well as serve others — during her undergraduate
career. And so she got certified as an emergency medical technician her first summer in Madison and volunteered
with the Belleville EMS team.
“I have one 12-hour shift per week and then one 48-hour shift per month,” Thompson said. “I’ve been doing that for
the last couple of years. That involved continued education and training. It involves mentorship with EMTs. It
enhances our skills as required by the state protocols and what is necessary as far as what types of calls we’ve