Rebeccah Overton ’22 is Colgate’s latest Newman Civic Fellow, receiving a national fellowship that recognizes students who seek to create change within their communities. The fellowship is awarded by Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities striving to build democracy through civic education and community development.
Overton was nominated by President Brian W. Casey for her work with the Southern Madison County Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SOMAC). In addition to being an EMT, Overton is the student coordinator for SOMAC, acting as a liaison between more than 40 students and the paid staff.
“SOMAC is like a full-time job — I’m there 30 hours a week,” Overton says. “I love being at SOMAC in addition to being the student coordinator. Any chance I get, I love to go and talk to paid staff and interact with the community.”
Throughout the 2021–22 academic year, Overton will participate in both virtual and in-person learning opportunities to support her civic growth. She will gain access to a national network of engaged student leaders, personal mentorship, and post-graduate scholarship opportunities.
“Being able to be in a room with like-minded people is really compelling to me,” Overton said of an optional in-person conference for the fellows in June. “[I’m most excited] to meet people who are really passionate about the same things I am passionate about and to talk to them and see what they’re doing, share stories, and talk about how their involvement in the community has shaped their lives during college, and how we both plan to do what we will with that after we graduate.”
A neuroscience major with a minor in biology, Overton sees science and medicine continuing to play a role in her life long after her undergraduate years. She hopes to remain an EMT in her free time and pursue an MD-PhD after taking a few years off to spend time abroad.
“I’m thinking about being a Peace Corps health volunteer for two years,” she said. “I actually grew up overseas in East Africa — both my parents worked for nonprofit organizations. So I want to be able to go back and give back to the community I grew up in, because it really shaped who I am today.”
Overton directly relates her experiences helping the Hamilton community to her desire to pursue medicine, describing some of her SOMAC calls as “life-changing.”
“There was one SOMAC call that was domestic abuse. Just being able, not even in a medical sense, to relate to this woman and give her a sense of comfort and make her feel better — in addition to providing medical treatment — was something where I thought, ‘Wow, I made a difference in this woman’s life and can do that times 10 in my lifetime,’” she said. “That was something that was eye-opening to me and made me solidify that I definitely want to go to med school and help people in any way that I can.”
Jeremy Wattles, director of the Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education, expressed his appreciation for Overton’s longstanding commitment to SOMAC.
“Over multiple years of engagement, Becca has shown reliability and taken on an increased role in training her peers, helping to guide them through the program,” he said. “In what will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult, tragic, and historic years in public health due to COVID-19, she demonstrated a willingness to put service to the common good above herself.”
Now immersed in a community of 212 student-leaders, Overton has the support necessary to continue to serve her community, whether that’s in Hamilton or halfway around the world.