The year 2020 is a year that we will all never forget. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives forever. But for Isabella Forst ‘21, it is a year she will never forget for other reasons.
In the summer of 2014, Forst and her family caught a stomach bug, which led to a four-day stay in the hospital for her father. Three months later, he was diagnosed with end stage renal failure, which means his kidneys had stopped working altogether, forcing him to go on dialysis.
Attending doctor’s appointments up and down the east coast and getting on several states’ deceased organ donor lists, her father continued to wait for a donor. For six years, Forst watched her father wait for a kidney while getting sicker and sicker on dialysis. She decided to do something.
“In January 2020, I got in contact with the Jason Ray Transplant Clinic at Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill and started to go through the long process of becoming a kidney donor. Through my many calls and two-day long visits with the hospital, they determined my dad and I were a match, my kidneys were healthy and the procedure would be safe for both of us,” Forst said.
On Oct. 16, 2020, in the middle of her senior year at NC State University, Forst donated her kidney to her father in a seven-hour procedure. “I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made, and it’s so rewarding to see him happy and healthy,” she said.
Normally, Forst works in the produce department of her local grocery store in Greensboro during winter break to help pay for her spring semester tuition. Due to her surgery, she was unable to work at the store this winter break. But she was fortunate enough to receive the John T. and Marie Kanipe Sr. Scholarship this year through the NC State College of Education. This scholarship allowed her to use the break to recover from surgery and spend valuable time with her family since she didn’t have to worry about tuition for the spring semester.
“It is incredibly comforting to know that I will be able to pay for the spring semester’s classes, regardless of what is happening in the world. Receiving a scholarship also gave me a huge confidence boost,” she said. “It feels like someone out there believes in me and my abilities.”
Forst came to NC State in the first-year engineering program with the goal of becoming a civil or mechanical engineer. Although she quickly discovered engineering was not a great fit for her, she found that she loved GC 120 — a course in the NC State College of Education’s technology, engineering and design education program that she took as part of her engineering curriculum.
She loved the professor, the material and her classmates, which influenced her to change majors. With a passion for STEM, Forst is now pursuing a degree in technology, engineering, and design education with a concentration in graphic communications, and is pursuing minors in technical and scientific communications and science communication.
“I plan to work as a technical communicator, combining my technical writing and engineering design experience to communicate complex technical concepts in a way that everyone can understand. I would love to work for a company that makes advances in health care,” she said.
Receiving the John T. and Marie Kanipe Sr. Scholarship has allowed Forst to focus more on her career goals. She has been able to worry less about her finances and her part-time job and focus more on her academic studies. “I can focus more on my technical writing classes, spend more time conducting informational interviews in the niche field of health care writing and I’ve been able to set aside time to work on an unpaid, health care-related project during the Society for Technical Communications’ Fall 2020 mentorship program.”
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With an interest in open-source software, accessible documentation, engineering design and video and audio production, Forst has had the opportunity to dive deeper into those interests while at NC State. She interned at Red Hat and was recently one of 40 selected to join the 2020 Google Season of Docs Fellowship, a three-month program that pairs technical writers with open source communities looking for documentation.
“It is a huge boost of confidence in my abilities that I really needed going into a competitive post-graduation job search, and it really speaks to the diverse educational experiences I gained as a student at NC State,” Forst said.
Forst was paired with OpenSCAD, an open source 3D modeling program. That experience solidified her love for open source software.
“I worked with my mentor to create a teacher-focused startup guide and a series of 15 lesson plans that teach elementary and middle school students concepts covered by the International Standards for Technological Literacy. It was a great way to combine my experiences in the graphic communications program and my two minors,” Forst said.