Graduation ceremonies have been disrupted throughout the country as schools and families have found alternative ways to celebrate. Then there are situations where the student wasn’t available for festivities.
Yavin Bizarretty graduated from University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa May 2020 and didn’t make it home until almost mid-July.
Although COVID-19 was the issue, in her case it was because she’s been working for the Florida State Health Department since April as an epidemiologist.
She did pair her undergraduate degree in Cell and Molecular Biology with a double major in History and a minor in Interdisciplinary Classical Civilizations. The reason was because her initial thoughts of medical school gave way to a strong interest in “the big picture” of public health and medical anthropology.
It should be no surprise she graduated in 2016 with honors from Medical Academy for Science and Technology Homestead (M.A.S.T.). Her interest in public support was evident with the four years she served on the Mayor’s Youth Council. She and fellow members were recognized by Vice Mayor Patricia Fairclough during a special ceremony. “They have faithfully and dutifully served the City of Homestead, giving their time, their talent, their treasures,” she warmly addressed them. “You have a lot of support in this
community, your family and your friends. But anything that you need to succeed is not just around you, it is within you. So use your wisdom to change the world. All the best to you!”
Bizarretty’s interest in science began even before she can probably remember. Her mother, Zoraida Seguinot ("Zory"), has held numerous professional roles, always in demanding positions. Giving presentations was a requirement of different jobs and she would often practice to her infant/toddler daughter. Rather than trendy gadgets, toys were science and education focused,
making learning fun as well as challenging. Around age four there was a choice between a nurse and doctor kit and Seguinot easily recalls her daughter selecting the doctor’s kit. The next year she began kindergarten and within a week, the teacher commented about how mature she was. “She’s always been interested in research and worked two grade levels above whatever she was doing.”
While attending M.A.S.T., she traveled nationwide representing Homestead in medical and science competitions. She was nominated to attend the National Congress of Future Medical Physicians and Scientists in Washington D.C., where she received a certificate of recognition. She was awarded full time scholarships for her undergraduate studies and has been an active member of HOSA-Future Health Professionals, where she also won competitions at the
university research level. [Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) was renamed HOSA-Future Health Professionals in 2004].
Bizarretty applied through an advertisement to the Florida State Health Department, not expecting to go to work two weeks before her actual college graduation. She’s part of a pandemic response team, working in contact tracing to interview individuals who have been positive for COVID-19. When she was finally able to take a few days to come home, the neighborhood turned out to congratulate her.
“Everything was done with strict attention to COVID-19 protocols,” Seguinot said. “As an epidemiologist, she wouldn’t have it any other way.” They were surprised though to have four or five police cars come up to escort their caravan through the Waterstone-Pebblebrook neighborhood where people waved and cheered.
Bizarretty’s advice to other students is, “It’s okay to change your mind and to not know what you want to do right away.” There’s no question as to what she will be doing for the foreseeable future and pursuing a Master of Public Health degree will come next. Based on her experience, she may decide to look at medical school again after all.