Koryse Woodrooffe was born in the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. When she was six months old, she and her mother came to the United States to join her grandmother. It was her mother’s hope that they would have a better life here and that Koryse would receive a good education.
One of the first memories Koryse has of her kindergarten class is being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Without hesitating, she replied, “A doctor.” At the time, she did not understand what it meant to be a doctor. Now she realizes that her passion to study and practice medicine is rooted in her desire “to give the hope of life to people,” and it seems to her that every event in her life reinforces this desire.
The most influential of these events is the passing of her mother. Her mother’s death helped Koryse to focus on what she needed to do on a daily basis to turn her dream of studying medicine into a reality. “Though there have been many obstacles and setbacks,” she says, “I could not, did not and will not let any of these hindrances keep me from being schooled. I have spent hours without end studying and practicing the knowledge that I have been taught so that excellence is the only mark I receive.” With this work ethic, Koryse rose to the top of her class at Benjamin Banneker Academy. She served as vice-president of student government and editor-in-chief of the yearbook, and nurtured a talent for public speaking.
While academics have been her top priority, Koryse devotes considerable time and energy to improving her community. She has served as president of her youth ministry group and executive director of her teen choir, volunteered in a neonatal intensive care unit, and worked as a teacher’s aide in a child development center. It was in this last setting that Koryse observed a lack of interest in reading among six- and seven-year-old children. She went into action and created the “Learning to Love Literature” program, recruiting other high school students to volunteer to read books on monthly themes to the children, and to lead discussions and related activities. She has been encouraged by the children’s enthusiastic response to the program.
Koryse will study a pre-medicine curriculum at Vanderbilt University, with the goal of eventually practicing medicine in her home community of Brooklyn, New York.