May 09, 2017
Graduate focused on excellence in academics and in life
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Whether she was competing on the track in junior Olympics or high school, participating in her volunteer activities, or maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average, Avona Greene always focused on her goals.
That inner drive enabled the 20-year-old Southern Illinois University Carbondale senior from Champaign to complete her bachelor’s degree in health care management, with a minor in psychology, in three years. Greene will participate in commencement exercises for the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 13, at the SIU Arena.
“I think that I have a drive for academics and anything that I do -- I want to execute it with excellence. That has been my goal since I stepped on campus,” she said. “Everything that you do reflects who you are and your character. If you do things in a mediocre manner -- that is going to reflect who you are.”
Greene said her commitment to volunteerism, which included working as a young child in a church soup kitchen, come from a family dedicated to volunteer work. Her grandfather worked with the American Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, as well as the recent water crisis in Flint, Mich.
The daughter of Edgar and Janice Greene of Champaign, Avona has two older sisters, Janasha Eakins and Erica Smith, and a younger sister, Valena, a junior at Champaign Centennial High School.
While a student at Centennial High School, Greene founded a mentoring group that urges middle school and junior high students to resist negative peer pressure. She has also been involved with community toy drives for children.
At SIU Carbondale, Greene was an academic peer advocate during the 2016-2017 school year for 480 students in Pierce and Warren residence halls. Academic peer advocates help students focus on personal and academic success. She also participated in the “I Can Read” program for grade school students at the Eurma C. Hayes Center in Carbondale.
“My parents have always showed me it is important to have a caring heart, volunteer, and give back to your community,” Greene said. “One day, you may need the help; and even if you don’t, you should care for your neighbors.”
Working as a volunteer in her former church’s soup kitchen as a child was “one of the most pivotal service roles” Greene experienced.
“It was humbling,” she said. “People would come and really need the food we were offering that day. Just listening to their stories touched my heart and led me to realize those services are needed. It gave me a new perspective, and I believe that fueled my desire to be in service to my community and really want to help people.”
While at SIU Carbondale, Greene was a Saluki cheerleader her first two years but stopped prior to her senior year to spend more time on research work and involvement with several registered student organizations; she is vice president of the Student Health Care Management Association.
Greene credits the faculty for her success in the classroom. The transition from going to class and engaging in lively discussions to being in the corporate world will be “bittersweet,” in part because of the faculty, she said. College also helped her gain confidence.
Greene earned the MidAmerica Healthcare Executives Forum Award in 2016, and was second in the university’s CURCA Undergraduate Research Forum in April. In October, Greene was the featured student speaker at the SIU Academic Scholarship Brunch where more than 375 students met and thanked scholarship donors.
Greene was a “proactive student who continually sought out opportunities beyond the classroom where she could both increase her knowledge and make a positive impact on the community,” Sandra Collins, Greene’s research supervisor and an associate professor in the School of Allied Health, said.
“It seemed everything she did or was motivated to do was based on an intrinsic desire to help others,” Collins said. “Her research on workforce diversity will launch areas of further study for students in the health care management program for years to come. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with such a rising star.”
Collins was an “excellent mentor” who Greene said held her to a high standard she tried to meet. Collins “has definitely been a pivotal point in developing me as a better researcher, better student and a better professional.”
Greene said she considered several offers to attend graduate school in audiology. But the desire to help others and to put her management training to work led Greene to accept a position as a hearing instrument specialist with Audibel Hearing Aid Center in Champaign.
Working as a job shadow in the audiology department at Carle Foundation Hospital last summer gave Greene the belief that this is her career path. Greene said she has known since she was in the first grade that she wanted to be involved in the medical field.
“The level of focus they had on quality of life within audiology and the positive environment that I felt in the field is one I absolutely fell in love with,” she said. “I fell in love with the technology and the science.”
Greene is a big believer in time management. She and her father charted her academic plan before she stepped on campus in fall 2014 so she could graduate in three years. She utilized academic proficiency credits earned during high school and summer school classes.
“Having an end goal is important,” Greene said. “You want to do things that are in line with that plan all the way.”