Kylee Bushway is a sucker for "Criminal Minds," but she hates scary movies. She will eat any kind of vegetable that is put in front of her, she’s a die-hard Patriots fan and she loves country music. If asked what her favorite color is, she’ll reply purple in a heartbeat. A former soccer star and current Elon University senior who sports long brown hair and a “110% ??” pin, she loves to laugh and is often seen with friends. But, below the surface, there aren’t many college women like her.

While many women in their early 20s are concerned with dating, pop culture and staying on top of fashion trends, Bushway has always been drawn to something different. Helping people and educating them is what gives her true satisfaction and joy.

“I want to be a women’s health nurse practitioner,” said Bushway, a public health and psychology major. “A little bit of education goes a long way – that’s what got me most. Women are powerful if you give them the chance and that’s why I’ve become so passionate about women’s health, because I think we have this potential that no one’s really touched upon.”

The people who know Bushway best have only wonderful things to say. They call her “dependable,” “very intelligent,” “easy to be around,” “nurturing” and “compassionate.” According to her loved ones, she is truly someone special and there’s a warm essence surrounding her that’s undeniable. Her laugh is warm and welcoming and her friends know her to be comforting and trustworthy.

Creating a program

Due to an early-discovered passion for medicine and public health, Bushway said she decided dedicating her time and energy to igniting an enthusiasm for life in others through health education was her calling.

Bushway received her first opportunity to make a difference during her freshman year at Elon.

“I got wrapped up in this program, Girls in Motion, and I really loved it,” Bushway said. “I became a mentor who helped fourth and fifth grade girls in Alamance County with body image, self-esteem, nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits. It was amazing and I really learned a lot from the girls.”

Girls in Motion is a health program that matches young girls with college women in order to promote confidence and health and wellness education.

Liz Bailey, lecturer in health and human performance at Elon, began the Girls in Motion Elon chapter in 2006 after seeing it implemented at other schools.

“[Girls in Motion] is where I can put some of the stuff I teach into action – try out some techniques that motivate people to be physically active, to change behavior,” Bailey said. “It’s really an opportunity to have students and me implement what we practice and preach in class in a real life setting.”

Bushway said she loved the idea of teaching young girls how to live healthily and responsibly, so she immediately put her heart and soul into the program. Bailey soon became a mentor figure for Bushway and the two worked together to enhance the program.

The following year, when Bailey asked Bushway to facilitate the program, Bushway noticed room for improvement in a big way. Girls in Motion, although successful, catered only to elementary school-aged girls. Once the same girls entered middle school, their healthy habits started to slip due to new social pressures.

“We see good benefits from Girls in Motion,” Bailey said. “Self-esteem goes up, body image improves, and the girls become more physically active. But if we followed up a year later, we started to see regression in those same girls.”

Inspired by her middle school-aged cousins as well as her younger sister, Bushway proposed starting an additional program for sixth to seventh grade girls in order to ensure healthy and smart habits were being adopted by vulnerable middle school students.

“Watching my cousins and sister grow up and seeing the pressures they go through in middle school, it’s a rough time,” Bushway said. “There’s not a lot of guidance that goes into it. I think that’s what drives my strong passion for it. My mom and the women in my family have always been so open and supportive and have given me guidance when I needed it. I want to be able to give these girls what I got because I know that an open line of communication isn’t typical in every family.”

Over the summer, Bushway worked hard to develop a brand new program, similar to that of Girls in Motion. She called it Girls to Empowered Teens (GET). GET’s motto is “Get kind, get fit, get smart,” and Bushway was instrumental in developing everything in the program, from lesson plans to funding to the logo.

“I knew that I could count on her to do this program. I saw something in Kylee,” Bailey said. “She’s athletic and active and has a bit of a kid in her but then she’s also this serious student. And that’s a combination that stands out in my opinion – someone who’s approachable on a number of different levels. Taking on a mentor role is natural for her.”

Bushway said her favorite part of being a mentor for young girls is having the privilege of witnessing what she calls “ah-ha” moments: what the girls experience when they finally understand a concept. Bushway said it was amazing to be able to witness the girls’ growth throughout the seven-week program she helped build. For her, bettering a person’s life is all the reward that she needs.

“If I commit to something then I do it to the end,” Bushway said. “I always try to be kind and considerate of people always. I try to have my world view be very broad and vast so that I can understand everyone’s opinions because everyone is different.”

Following her passion

It’s this adventurous spirit and generous nature that led Bushway to India during Winter Term 2013. During her trip, Bushway solidified her views on pursuing public health as a career.

“If you can get the public to eat healthy and make good choices then you can dramatically change the health of the whole community,” Bushway said. “I saw it work in India so that made me realize that it’s more than possible to do it here.”

Bushway described her India adventure as “amazing” and “eye opening.” It was there that she got hands-on, real-world experience in preventative healthcare by working with Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), which is an organization with the goal of bringing healthcare to poverty-stricken individuals in India.

She said she can still remember the incredible feeling that working with these communities provided. Bushway and the other Elon students on the trip went into villages that requested the help of CRHP. Together, they trained one woman from the lowest caste system in each community to be a health expert or nurse. Once the women they help are released back into their community, they end up changing the entire area for the better, all due to some education and assistance.

“You need to empower the people of the village to make a sustainable change instead of going in as an outsider and telling people what to do,” Bushway said of her India experience. “Once you remove that outsider and train one of their own, they will listen and change on their own. You educate one woman and you improve the quality of life in the village tenfold.”

Junior Katie Umbdenstock was one of the students who joined Bushway in India. Umbdenstock and Bushway are alike in many ways. Both have an undeniable passion for helping others, as well as for public health.

“We all really wanted to do something meaningful and use what we learned in India to help people in the U.S.,” Umbdenstock said. “We had this bond. We knew what we were doing was hard. We knew it was difficult. But doing it together was what made it so meaningful. Being able to share these experiences was a really great bonding experience.”

Living in the moment

Umbdenstock, like Bushway, is also involved in Girls in Motion and GET. After Bushway graduates in the spring, Umbdenstock will take over the GET program.

“It’s going to be hard for me to let it go because [the GET program] is my baby, but I know I’m leaving it in good hands,” Bushway said. “I have faith in the students who go here and if anything, I know that it’ll get better, not worse. It’s going to be sad to leave but I’m not worried.”

With graduation just a few shorts months away, Bushway said she looks back favorably on the last four years while remaining optimistic and excited about the future. Her friends agree she has a bright and successful career ahead.

As Bushway walks through campus, whether it be on her way to work at the Student Professional Development Center, to attend a Sigma Kappa event, of which she is president, or even just to one of her many biology-related classes, it’s clear her college experience has been a fulfilling one. She is constantly greeted by smiling faces and booming “hellos.” This is not just a nod to Bushway’s popularity, but to her spirit and her kind heart.

This burning zest for life that runs deep in Bushway’s veins is desirable and contagious, which she credits her family for. Bushway said that they have been and continue to be the biggest positive influences in her life.

“My mom, she’s very selfless and I’ve seen her do so much good for other people,” she said. “My dad is very driven and determined. He taught me to reach further than you would ever expect. The combination of both of these outlooks helped create who I am today.”

Kylee Bushway is a true people person. She finds joy in interacting with others and has a real desire to make a difference. Not every college woman can say the same. She is a leader among followers and sees every situation as an opportunity to learn.

As she forges ahead into unknown territory, there is one thing that is certain – she’ll always be surrounded by supporters and loved ones.

“As a person and a friend, Kylee is one of the most kind, compassionate, dedicated, understanding and hardworking people I know,” said Maddy Rooney, Elon senior and one of Bushway’s best friends since freshmen year. “She always puts 100 percent of herself into everything that she does, whether it is schoolwork, her leadership roles or her friends. She is also always willing to take on new experiences and challenges, and although stressful at times, Kylee never quits or backs down from anything she is committed to. She goes into it all with full force, as they say.”

Most importantly, Bushway is the kind of person who doesn’t see limitations. She only sees potential. It’s this rare trait that will propel her forward in life, allowing her to follow her dreams and pursue a career centered on helping others and making people happy. And if you ask anyone who knows her, no one is better suited for the job.

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