Amanda Van Horn considers herself an advocate, willing to speak up on behalf of others and make sure their needs are being met.
As vice president of Student Assembly, she listens to input from her fellow students and tries to address their concerns through events, policy changes and communication with the college’s Administration. As a future healthcare provider, she is looking to address the gap in care for children in need of psychiatric services.
Off campus, her two jobs – in healthcare and as an aide to the disabled – also show her commitment to compassionate care. She is also the foster mother to her younger sister, whose school photo adorns her much-used scheduling notebook.
“I write everything down — highlighting, scribbles, whiteout, all of it,” she mused, while leafing through its well-marked pages. “I’m more likely to do something if I write it down.”
A native of Brooklyn, Amanda nevertheless has Broome County roots. Her grandmother moved to the area in late 2001 and Amanda spent her summers here, enjoying local parks and pols, Johnson City Field Days and, of course, Skate Estate.
After graduating high school, she worked in a range of fields – in retail, at nonprofits, in courthouses – and then relocated to the Binghamton area to care for her sister. Amanda knew precisely where she wanted to work: UHS. After applying for more than 40 positions with the regional healthcare provider, she was hired as an access care representative, working in the emergency rooms at both UHS Wilson Medical Center and UHS Binghamton General Hospital.
Around the same time, she also enrolled in SUNY Broome – first in Human Services, and then in Health Studies after her interests shifted in focus. In fact, SUNY Broome led to her second job as a self-directed services worker at Springbrook, serving clients with developmental disabilities. Originally hired by a faculty member to care for an autistic child, she transitioned to Springbrook to continue to provide care.
“It’s been a great opportunity for both of us. I’m definitely learning about myself,” she reflected. “They’re autistic, but at the end of the day, they’re still no different than me. I hope one day we get to a point in our society where everyone is open and accepting when people are different.”
‘Serving my community’
With her deep background in caring, Amanda originally saw herself becoming a social worker, but has since shifted her focus to nursing. Her long-term goal is to earn her doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) and specialize in pediatric psychology.
“I always wanted to end up in the psych field. When I started living on my own, I became a health nut, looking for ways to combine mental health with healthy lifestyle choices,” she explained. “This kind of plays into that.”
Along the way, she discovered that pediatric patients face a lengthy waiting list – as much as three to nine months – for psychiatric care. In emergencies, parents can take their children to the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at UHS Binghamton General Hospital, but many would prefer other options.
Once she completes her prerequisites, she plans to transfer into Binghamton University’s Decker School of Nursing to earn her BSN. There are other options, she acknowledges, such as earning her RN at SUNY Broome and working in the field while she earns her bachelors. In fact, the UHS Nursing Student Fellowship Program provides financial support and mentorship opportunities for qualified applicants.
Amanda, however, wants to earn her bachelor’s as quickly as possible, and then her license as a nurse practitioner.
“I came here when I was 21 going on 22, and I hadn’t been in school since I was 18. Now I go year-round. I’m all-in,” she said.
She plans on staying in the area, perhaps opening her own practice someday. The Southern Tier is also undergoing revitalization, which Amanda finds encouraging.
“This area is growing. I feel like there’s so much more going on,” she said of Binghamton. “Once I get into healthcare, I will be serving my community.”
With two jobs, classes and a younger sister, extracurricular activities can be challenging to schedule. Amanda, however, knew that she wanted to get involved.
“In high school, I was considered a loner. I know I wanted my college career to be different from high school,” she said.
Unable to fit most campus clubs into her limited availability, Amanda visited Student Activities Director Jason Boring for suggestions. He connected her with a fellow student involved in student government. After attending three meetings, Amanda ran for office herself, winning a senator post before being elected as vice president this year.
She appreciates the Student Assembly’s commitment to campus service, including their involvement in the creation of the Multicultural Resource Center and designated areas for nursing mothers.
In the Student Assembly, Amanda has helped out with the annual Sleepout for the Homeless as well as Food for Thought, the student-run food pantry. After a competitive election, she was named as the SUNY Student Assembly representative, serving as a liaison for five community colleges and advocating policy initiatives that affect the entire SUNY system.
Student Assembly is currently working on a proposal for peer-to-peer advising, which will connect students with those more experienced in their majors. As part of this initiative, they’re looking to partner with Binghamton University’s student government, as BU is the destination school for many of SUNY Broome’s transfer students. Another idea involves partnering with local high schools.
“Higher education is worth something; you need it,” Amanda said. “I want to establish relationships with local schools for the peer-mentor protégé program.”
Student Assembly, however, relies on an active and engaged student body to set its direction. To that end, Amanda recommends that her fellow Hornets consider becoming involved – much as she did, when she initially began attending meetings.
“The point is to be an advocate for those who don’t have a voice,” she said.
Both within and outside the classroom walls, SUNY Broome has given Amanda Van Horn multiple opportunities to grow – as a leader, a future healthcare provider and, above all, as an advocate.
“You’re in this little community that puts you on a platform and helps you rise up,” she said. “It’s fun, it’s nice and it’s just a rich experience.”