To me, Florida has always been home, but Jacksonville had never been more than a city I drove through on I-95. I was raised in the Orlando-area and grew up taking the perennial sunshine and southern charm for granted. After attending college in Massachusetts, I returned to Florida with a newfound appreciation for the beauty of never having to trudge through 3-feet of snow! When I applied to NHC-FL, I chose Jacksonville for two primary reasons: its proximity to my family and my interest in learning how to advocate for change in the health disparities facing Florida, where I hope to practice as a physician. My service has deepened my own understanding of “home;” it’s not just where you are, but who you’re with and the part you play in making it better for all.
At first, I worried I would feel lonely in Jacksonville without the security blanket of friends a dorm away, but discovering Jacksonville with my fellow NHC-FL members has given me 20 new friends. I love that there are so many free and inexpensive activities such as attending $5 Friday Nights at the Museum of Science and History, meandering through art vendors and food trucks at the Jax Art Walk, visiting farmer’s markets, or wandering the scenic trails of Jacksonville’s nature preserves. As a Corps, we are always getting together, whether we are grabbing brunch at the famous Metro diner, going to the beautiful beaches or trivia nights, attending a community performance of the Nutcracker, or discovering the history of St. Augustine, just to name a few! Additionally, my role on the Service Projects Committee has allowed me to make connections with charitable organizations in Jacksonville. These connections have reaffirmed my belief that Jacksonville is a community built on the spirit of passionate people making a difference – whether that is a local farmer growing organic produce to feed a food desert or the countless people building sustainable futures through HabiJax. They have made me realize what an honor it is to serve alongside them here in Jacksonville.
So, when I reflect on what living in Jacksonville has meant to me, the mothers I serve captured the positives best; it’s all about my family, including my AmeriFam, this home where I feel my “part” is, and my perpetual optimism for making this community worthy of each baby’s future.
This blog post was written by NHC Florida member, Rebecca Ratusnik.
Rebecca serves at UF Health- Healthy Start as a Care Coordinator.