2017-04-26 / Local News

Nursing student honored as a “Rising Star” by Rutgers Hillel


FAMILY: Parents Harry and Hilary, brother Jacob, 17

HOMETOWN: Voorhees

SYNAGOGUE: Cong. Beth El

FAVORITE SHABBAT FOOD: Vegetarian cholent and apple kugel

FAVORITE TV shows: M*A*S*H, The Family Guy, South Park

Growing up in a family that runs a prominent South Jersey funeral home, Jaclyn Platt never was really interested in following in her father Harry’s or grandfather Bernie’s footsteps. Caring for others, however, has intrigued her since the age of eight, when young Jaclyn discovered reruns of M*A*S*H and TV shows about human development.

“I was a weird child. I watched Discovery Health instead of Nickelodeon,” said Jaclyn, 21. “I saw a baby’s birth on a show and I knew I wanted to go into the medical field.”

Loading up on science and anatomy classes at Eastern High School paid off as Jaclyn is now finishing up her third year of a four-year intensive nursing degree program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Currently working a clinical round at New Brunswick’s St. Peter’s University Hospital in the metabolic unit while pursing coursework, the junior still makes time for another of her life’s passions: Involvement in the campus Hillel. Currently secretary, she will step up to the role of executive vice president in her senior year.

Highly involved since she started at Rutgers her freshman year, Jaclyn was one of five “Rising Star” students who were honored at Hillel’s annual gala on April 2.. Her parents and grandparents attended the event, which doubled as the grand opening celebration of the student organization’s new 33,000 square foot student center at 70 College Avenue, the result of an $18-million capital and endowment campaign.

Jaclyn became involved in Hillel in her freshman year before classes even officially started. The hook, she explained, was an invitation to move into campus early and attend a Shabbat service.

“I didn’t really do Shabbat every week at that time,” she admitted. “I saw it more as an opportunity to move in early.”

It was a fortuitous decision. Many of the other early-move motivated students remain her best friends at college and also very involved in Hillel. And Jaclyn is now a Shabbat regular.

In her freshman year, she took on a role on the Conservative community board, planning events such as holiday celebrations and other events. Among her favorite events that year was the Kosher Fat Sandwich night. This was a popular event, she explained, since these sub rolls stuffed with meats, veggies or falafel are normally a staple of the non-kosher “grease trucks” that have long fueled Rutgers students in the late hours. In her sophomore year, she was responsible for planning social and educational events as well as religious services. This year’s role is more behind the scenes, she said, since she knew junior year would be intense. Next year, she said, she will be largely responsible for outreach and helping students find their niche within the active organization.

Her parents’ involvement in Jewish communal organizations was a big influence, she said. Harry is currently a vice president on the board of Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. Hillary Platt is coordinator of Project SARAH, (Stop Abusive Relationships at Home), the domestic abuse prevention program of Jewish Family and Children’s Service.

One of the perks of having involved parents was accompanying her father as his date to events her mother could not attend. One such highlight for her was meeting Alan Alda (a.k.a. Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H) when he and his wife Arlene were featured authors during a Bank of America Festival of Arts, Books and Culture at the Katz JCC.

Her mother’s work is inspiring. When she can, she will accompany Hilary to classes to help in educating teens about domestic violence.

“It’s cool to see how she interacts with the students,” Jaclyn said. “She throws in funny things to keep their attention. I’ve even had her come to Hillel for events to teach about dating violence and how to stay safe on college campuses. Now everyone knows my mom.”

She is looking forward to returning home for the summer to work on an externship at Cooper University Hospital but has not yet been given a specific assignment. She said whatever it is would be an opportunity to learn more in her chosen field.

“I’m happy for the opportunity to explore all avenues of nursing to see what I like best,” she said. 

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