Teenager who delivered baby recruited to STEP program
It might have been a plot for one of the programs Raynita Anderson watches on the Discovery Health Channel, but it was not. On Thanksgiving Day last year, she played the starring role in a real life drama when she delivered her aunt’s baby in the back seat of a moving minivan.
The 15-year-old sophomore at Wingdale High School in Dutchess County, N.Y., became a celebrity of sorts from newspaper articles and TV interviews after she used her shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord, which was wrapped around the neck of the baby who was not yet breathing. Another passenger in the van had called 911 after Raynita’s mother, Angelita Pulliam, pulled off the Saw Mill River Parkway in Chappaqua to get help. But when no emergency vehicle showed up in response, their destination became Westchester Medical Center. Waiting to receive them were two doctors for the baby, and another two for the mother, Jacqueline Walker-Jones, a Yonkers police officer. The baby, who was named Malachi D’Mauryo-Jones, was born healthy at 5 pounds, 11 ounces.
The story doesn’t end there. Raynita’s exploits attracted the attention of New York Medical College staff members who saw a potential match in Raynita with the College STEP program. STEP is an acronym for Science and Technology Entry Program, a state-funded project targeted to help minority students and other economically disadvantaged students in grades 9 through 12 from high schools in lower Westchester and the Bronx. The program is held Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., under the direction of Marva Richards, STEP coordinator in the Office of Minority Affairs. Ms. Richards is assisted by medical students from the College who volunteer their time tutoring youths who are considering medical school and other healthcare careers. Raynita, who acquired her obstetrical talents from watching “Babies Special Delivery,” “Birthday Live,” “Birth Day,” and “Trauma: Life in the ER,” fit the bill perfectly.
It was Donna E. Moriarty, M.P.H. ’04, senior communications director at the College, who called Ms. Richards after reading about Raynita’s feat. Ms. Richards promptly tracked down the teenager, who vividly remembers how excited she became at receiving the coordinator’s call.
“I thought they had the wrong person,” Raynita says in a voice barely audible. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this. It’s still all very new.” The shy youth perks up when she talks about how much she is learning and how she is determined to put it to good use.
“I’ve always been interested in medicine. I first thought of being a nurse. It’s going to take a lot but I’m willing to do it,” Raynita says. “I like the program. It’s a new experience for me and I’m really enjoying it now. I’ve been helped a lot.” The unsung hero is her mother, who drives her to the campus and visits with relatives until it is time to pick her up. “I’m very thankful my mother is willing to do this every Saturday, especially since she drives down to Valhalla every day during the week,” says Raynita. Her mother works as a correctional officer at the Westchester County Correctional Facility, located at the opposite end of the same Valhalla campus shared by the College and Westchester Medical Center.
Ms. Richards beams when she talks about Raynita’s progress after only a few months in the program. She is being tutored by a second-year medical student, Elizabeth Buescher. One Saturday when Ms. Buescher could not be present, she arranged for a substitute—another STEP student—to fill in. Christopher Gardner, 17, is a senior at Iona Prep in New Rochelle. It is his third year in the program and he has this to say about the young lady he has tutored before: “Raynita tries very hard and is willing to step back and think things over if she didn’t get it the first time.” Christopher, who is poised and confident, started the program as reserved as Raynita, says Ms. Richards. “Raynita will become as self-assured when she’s been here as long,” she insists.
The session ends when everyone—all the STEP students, the medical student volunteers and the parents who take turns helping in various ways—gather in the College cafeteria for a catered lunch of favorite foods. They will all be back the next weekend, rising early and giving up the better part of a Saturday, to afford someone in their family this opportunity to prepare for competitive higher education and careers in the sciences or technology.