Jaquan Harley ’22: Future Podiatrist Finds Footing
by Susan Shelly
Jaquan Harley ’22 recalled the anticipation and nervousness he experienced when beginning his freshman year in 2018. As he prepares to graduate in May with a biology degree, he’s feeling some of the same emotions, but without the self-doubt that threatened to derail him when he first arrived on campus.
“What I’ve learned since I started at Albright is to not doubt myself like I did my freshman year,” said Harley. “I shouldn’t have done that, and I realize that now.”
Harley, who is known as “Jay,” had planned on teaching and took education courses while a student at Paul M. Hodgson Vocation High School in Newark, Delaware. An unexpected death in his family, however, exposed him to the medical system and made him reconsider his career choice.
“That event affected me profoundly and made me rethink my plans,” Harley explained. “I knew it was a big leap from teaching to medicine, but I felt it was something I really wanted to do.”
When an Albright representative visited Harley’s high school and described the college’s science program, Harley’s decision was confirmed.
“From what I heard, I really liked the science program and wanted to come to Albright,” he said.
He credits his mother, Catina Butler, for cheering him on.
“She supported me in every way,” he said. “Whenever I was doubting I could do the science, she’d tell me it was going to be fine and offer encouragement. She kept telling me I could do it, and that kept me motivated.”
A self-described enthusiastic and outgoing person, Harley set out making friends shortly after arriving on campus.
“As soon as I got to campus, I realized I had no friends and I needed to get out and meet people,’ he said.
Meet people, he did.
He joined the Domino Players and was cast in productions of “Mosaic” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” He became a member of Alpha Sigma Phi, Tri-Beta, Alpha Epsilon Delta and the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. He serves as an admission ambassador, Lion Diplomat and Peer Orientation Person.
He is a member of the honors program and completed an Albright Creative Research Experience in which he studied single-celled eukaryotes called Vorticella convallaria with hopes that his research will one day impact the public health of underprivileged communities. Despite the pandemic, he presented his research findings at the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference sponsored by the Higher Education Council of Berks County.
Harley also got involved off-campus, volunteering with the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and participating in a study abroad program in Costa Rica during his junior year.
“I enjoy everything I do,” Harley said. “It’s a lot along with my coursework, but I work really hard Monday through Friday and then I have Saturday and Sunday to rest and clear my mind and destress.”
Currently, he is an intern with the Science Research Institute at Albright, where he works with middle school and high school students. That position, he said, is important to him and very rewarding.
“I grew up without a lot, and my mom sacrificed a lot for me,” Harley said. “To be able to give back to kids who I can see myself in feels really nice.”
With his dream of becoming a physician intact, Harley plans to retake his MCAT exams and continue applying to medical schools. He is hopeful that a weeklong internship he completed at Temple University Medical School will give him an entrance advantage there.
While his sights are set on becoming a podiatrist, Harley hopes to also be able to work with children in some capacity.
“I don’t know how it will work out or what the future holds. I just know I want to do work that benefits others, and I believe I can do that. What I’ve learned at Albright is that I can do anything I put my mind to.”