Scelena Harris: A new wave of success

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Scelena Harris, a 29-year-old nursing major, has been elected president of the University of North Alabama’s Black Student Alliance. Although she is not the first female president, she is the first in a long time.

As she takes office this spring, she is beginning her first semester of her junior year of college. She is a proud member of the university’s Student Nurses Association and is working towards a degree in nursing. She feels comforting and caring for others has been her calling since she was very young.

Harris’ family is full of powerful, inspiring women. Many of these women are nurses. It felt natural to Harris to follow in this path, but the call of nursing spoke to her on a more personal level, because of her upbringing. 

As a child, her mother worked hard to provide for the family, leaving Harris to take care of her younger sister and brother. She tells of cooking for them and being passionate about them having their needs met. 

“As a child, I always cared for my siblings, so that gave me a passion for wanting to care for others. That’s why I want to be a nurse,” Harris states. 

Set to finish college at age 31, her path has never been traditional. After losing her son at age 19, Harris was unable to finish high school due to the physical trauma and grief she experienced at such a young age. Even as she dealt with these things, she still had great responsibilities and spent years working to support herself and her family. She cites her faith in God as what got her through these times.

However, she did received her high school diploma, which she refers to as the most rewarding thing she has done in her life so far.  She could then start looking into options for higher education, leading her to UNA.

Starting college later than a typical student who begins right after high school, one might expect Harris to keep to herself on campus or to get in and get out, minding her own business. Instead, she has become immersed in the UNA and Florence communities, striving to make a change for those in her sphere of influence. 

However, she never expected to complete nursing school amidst an unprecedented global pandemic, however it only inspires her to work harder. Several who are close to her have suffered from Covid-19, pushing her harder towards her goal.

 “What I hope to accomplish as a nurse is to be able to travel the world and aid in ways that my help is needed,” she states, although traveling the world seems like such a big feat at the moment.

Harris joined BSA in 2019, and before she served as president, she helped and supported the organization, giving her best effort to the university and fellow members. 

“What brought me toward joining BSA was the opportunity to meet and convene with my fellow black students on topics that pertain to us as a whole. When I came to UNA, I didn’t have anyone here. BSA welcomed me with open arms and became my family,” Harris explains. 

Now she prepares to use her experiences in life and the responsibilities she has had to uphold from a very young age to improve BSA and the community for black students at UNA.

“As the new president of BSA, I am ready to help create more consistency in BSA, and improve the quality of our relationship with each other and our services outside of  the BSA walls in our community,” Harris says, “I am fully prepared to help launch BSA into a new wave of success. A leadership role requires focus. These are the qualities I have.”

She has already begun to make a difference. She led over one hundred people in the Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance walk. Yet, still she strives for more. Looking back on her life, her only desire is to move forward.

“I had to grow up before my time and be responsible, which made me into the person I am today, because I know what I have to do. I never slack. To me, I have an amazing work ethic, because I have worked for everything that I’ve gotten since I was able to work,” Harris reflects, “my advice for my younger self would be to never give up, no matter how hard it gets.”

To be a pioneer in the medical profession in a post-Covid world, to use her experience to lead others, while being led by God,  Harris will prevail.