University of Vermont

Nursing student crowned Miss Vermont 2013

Jeanelle Achee to use title as opportunity for advocacy

Miss Vermont 2013 Jeanelle Achee
Miss Vermont 2013 Jeanelle Achee with CNHS classmates Maia Menzel and Emily Millman

Jeanelle Achee ’14, of Rochester, was crowned Miss Vermont on June 22 in a competition at South Burlington High School.

The title – which includes $9,000 in scholarship money and additional prizes – will enable Achee to travel the state to advocate for sexual violence survivors and promote healthy relationships. The cause is a meaningful one for Achee, who is herself a survivor of sexual violence.

“That's what inspired me to work in this area, and is really the fire that keeps me working and dedicated to this cause,” said Achee, who has volunteered more than 3,000 hours over the past four years for the non-profit HOPE Works hotline. Achee has also participated in Take Back the Night, and arranged a leadership weekend for Girl Scouts Beyond Bars.

Her dedication extends to her planned career. Achee entered UVM as a global studies major with an interest in working with women abroad, but transferred to nursing as a faster means to reach her goal.

“Nurses are in a unique position to truly help people in all areas of their lives because we have the ability to take the time to get to know patients on a deeper level," said Achee. She will use her nursing degree – together with $30,000 in funding from a Harry S. Truman Scholarship award she received this year – as a springboard for graduate education. Achee plans to become a specially trained emergency room nurse known as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE).

“Nursing is what I'm meant to do, and there isn't a better way to help survivors of sexual violence because I can cover the mental and physical aspects of the recovery process,” said Achee, whose efforts and achievement serve as an example of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences' mission to prepare skilled healthcare practitioners and advocates capable of transforming lives.

"To become an excellent nurse it takes discipline, courage, determination . . . guts," said Stuart Whitney, clinical associate professor and undergraduate nursing program coordinator. "One needs to keep focus on the client at all times, and this is never easy with the complexity of care nurses address, the professional obligations to stay clinically competent, and the challenges health care faces today and in the future. Students like Jeanelle who demonstrate these qualities are well poised to accept the challenge."

Achee, who is paying her own way through college, began pageant competition after learning that a friend had paid for graduate school with pageant scholarship winnings. But working part-time, volunteering, preparing for pageant competition and keeping up with the responsibilities of full-time student life can be difficult at times, Achee said.

“I make it work by reminding myself that it will all pay off in the end, even when I'm awake studying at 3 a.m. for an exam after a 14-hour work day.”

Nursing faculty have been supportive, and helped Achee adjust her schedule so she can attend the Miss America competition in Atlantic City, N.J. in early fall, she said.

“Jeanelle is an extraordinary asset as a member of the UVM community as she will be to her chosen profession," said Sarah Abrams, associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. "Her commitment to community service, global outreach, and advanced practice is evident in her work, her Truman Scholarship, and her plan to study public health nursing in Uganda during her senior year. We are proud to have a person of such determination and positive attitude who will represent the nursing profession and our College as Miss Vermont!”

“I am lucky to be in a small state because I can do more meaningful work with my title. This is an amazing stepping stone which will open doors for me,” said Achee.