“I’ve always been interested in how people work and why people are the way that they are. It was my senior year when I became really set on going into psychology. Toward the end of my senior year, I realized I want to spend my life helping kids primarily. I figured double majoring in family, community and human development, and psychology would help me stay on that path.
In my senior year, I worked at a daycare and I always loved being around kids and getting to work with them. My brother is also a big reason why I wanted to work with kids. Right now he is 6, but when he was just 1 he was diagnosed with autism. Getting to be around a kid that isn’t neurotypical opened up my world to that area.
I think one of the biggest barriers he had when he was younger was his communication. We tried our best to teach him a few baby signs and he was able to communicate a little bit through that. But for the most part, he would get angry and frustrated because he didn’t know how to tell us what he needed and what he wanted.
He went to a class for kids with autism and I spent some time in that class. Being around all of those kids, I found some joy in getting to work with them and help them. Watching my brother grow influenced my degree choice. The class he was in, was technically a school class, but it was more like therapy than anything else. When he first started going, he wasn’t verbal. He never really talked to us and he was far behind in his development. But seeing him go to class and then come back home and after just a year of being in that class, he talks way more now. Like he doesn’t stop talking now. He loves to tell stories and loves to show everything off to everyone. Seeing that progress in him was really impactful for me.
When I was younger, I didn’t grow up in a super stable home. I switched around with different parents and different family members and I never went to therapy or had someone like that around. I could have benefited from something like that when I was little. And so I want to try to do that for other people.”
—Jenisy Nelson, 2022-23 recipient of the For Utah Scholarship