It’s an understatement to say 2020 was a disruptive year.
For Drake Bourgeois, of Maurice, La., that disruption reverberated across his personal and academic life, sending him to the brink of giving up on college.
Instead, Bourgeois found a path where he could thrive through the University’s bachelor’s in Health Promotion and Wellness online.
“I realized that Health Promotion and Wellness lined up well with the career I wanted,” Bourgeois says.
“All my social media pages have this slogan that I go by, 'I am just an average Cajun man ready to go out in the world to change and save lives.’ So, the degree intertwines with that slogan, and I've just been in love with it.”
Building New Skills
Bourgeois traces his motto back to 2004 when he and his family faced the unimaginable loss of his infant sister, Madison.
He knew from then on that he wanted to center his career — and his life — on helping others. Initially, he thought that would be through healthcare, but he found that it wasn’t the right fit.
To be confident in a new path, Bourgeois needed assurance that the degree he was pursuing would be consistent with his mission and values.
“My advisor Ms. LeBlanc helped me tremendously throughout my college journey, showed me that it was all about public health, which is informing and helping others,” he says.
Bourgeois also had to contend with transitioning from an on-campus program to an 100% online bachelor’s degree.
“I had to do a lot of soul searching to be like, 'OK, I failed one class already — Biology 261. The last thing I need to do is fail again.’ So, I looked into myself for the autonomy that I needed to keep it going, and because of this degree program, I improved my work ethic tremendously,” says Bourgeois.
Bourgeois’ soul searching included some external searching, as well. He scoured YouTube for research-based advice on how to better manage time and competing priorities.
And there was a lot of competition.
Throughout his time as an online student, Bourgeois worked frequent and long hours at Chick-fil-A to cover tuition remaining after TOPS and financial aid; played trumpet with UL Lafayette’s marching band, Pride of Acadiana; and volunteered every weekend each October with Scott’s Fright Trail, benefitting Literacy Inc.
Planning and communication, he says, were key in succeeding as an online student.
“I started writing stuff down on notepads, and I kept it on my desktop, so I could remind myself to do it,” he says. “I kept, over time, just writing stuff down to build better habits and better time management. Communicating with my professors, just overall better communication, better time management skills, and trying to make better connections in college is what helped me a lot.”
As Bourgeois found his footing in a new degree program and a new career path, he was still processing the hits he took in 2020.
He’d lost his grandmother to COVID, he’d been laid off, and he’d faced the possibility of missing the opportunity to be the first in his family to earn a college degree.
But, he says, his parents and the memory of his late infant sister kept him motivated to succeed.
“My father and my mother strongly encouraged me. They would always say, ‘you're going to do it, you're going to do it,’” says Bourgeois. “I was inducted this semester to Tri-Alpha, and I just kept working toward that and graduating as a first gen student. But without my family, I don't think I would have made it through college.”
The Tri-Alpha honors society celebrates first-generation college graduates with a 3.2 GPA or higher.
The online Health Promotion and Wellness degree program prepares students to develop and enhance programming in corporate health, community wellness, or at the state level with classes focused in world health issues, environmental health, stress, nutrition, organizational funding strategies, management, marketing, and professional writing.
Through that curriculum, Bourgeois gained new understanding and appreciation of health disparities across the country and the world.
"I learned about how oppressed women are in certain countries. And it opened my mindset,” says Bourgeois.
Now, he’s implementing a six-month plan to earn his CHES certification in the hopes of working with the state, ideally as a health inspector.
“You are helping the community by checking different aspects of restaurants, schools, wherever you are going to be checking,” he says.
Improve the quality of life for individuals and groups as a public health educator or community health worker. Request information today about the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's accredited online Health Promotion and Wellness degree program