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Student plans career in HIV/AIDS research

Orlando Harris expects to graduate next spring with bachelor’s degrees in nursing, human development and Africana studies. The New York City native hopes to use his varied training as an HIV/AIDS researcher one day, but first he plans to go to graduate school and become a nurse practitioner.

Thanks to a rigorous schedule that includes busy summer sessions, Harris will finish all three degrees in five years. “I strive to be busy,” he said simply.

That extends to campus life as well. Harris was a resident assistant for 2 years and president of the Students of Color Support Center for two years. He has also served as an orientation adviser and a peer counselor through the Educational Opportunity Program. Helping other students is rewarding, he said. “That’s the most fulfilling part because people look up to me,” he said. “I have to live up to their expectations.”

Harris, 22, is a role model at home, too. He’s the oldest of five children since his older brother passed away. He helps his sister do her homework, offering tips over the phone and through instant messenger. One day, he wants to help put his siblings through college.

Harris said he has friends who are HIV-positive and has met young gay people who were abandoned by their families. Their experiences inspired him to focus on HIV/AIDS prevention. “A young person relating to another young person can make a difference,” he said.

Harris has already received a scholarship from the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.

Harris put some of his academic training into practice during winter break. He saw a car accident and was the first person to stop and offer help. Harris notified emergency personnel and began CPR. The patient survived.

“The nursing school prepares you really well to respond,” he said. “My heart was racing. I was a nervous wreck, but I knew what I had to do and I did it.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08