A Life-Changing Phone Call from the Boston Red Sox

MAY 08, 2024

On May 10, 2018, Janichka Jean-Nordeus, who was a middle school student at Fenway High School in Mission Hill at the time, got a phone call that would change the trajectory of her life. It was the Boston Red Sox calling, but the call had nothing to do with baseball. Instead, the team had taken notice of Janichka’s academic and community service track record after she had applied to the competitive Red Sox Scholars program. On the call, the seventh grader was offered a $10,000 scholarship and a spot in the Scholars program.

“I cried because I knew exactly what it meant for my future,” she recalled about that day. “My mom was very happy and proud, my teachers, my principal…that was a big moment for me. After that, I knew I could accomplish anything.”

Fast forward six years and the now 18-year-old is a Patient Information Specialist and Unit Coordinator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in the Emergency Department where she is part of a team that handles patient registration, phone calls, and coordinates patient transfers and charts for ambulances. This spring, Janichka began her undergraduate studies at Boston University, as she continues to work per diem at BIDMC.

Janichka’s path is a testament to the Red Sox Scholars program, which again recorded a 100-percent high school graduation and college enrollment rate this year – for the sixth consecutive year. The program was created in 2003 and has become a springboard for local Boston students, connecting them with an abundance of opportunity and support.

At first, Janichka disregarded the encouragement of her history teacher, Jordan Manchester, to apply for a spot in the program. “I didn’t think I had a chance,” she said. Fortunately, Janichka would eventually heed the urging of her teacher and take a leap of faith. She applied and eventually made it to the final interview in front of a full room at Fenway Park. Her teacher drove her.

“I’m so grateful that [my teacher] encouraged me to apply and kept on me,” she said. “I was so nervous, but it turned out to be the best decision of my life.”

Janichka said she gets her passion for helping people from her mother, Nelia.

“My mom always told me that I would get very excited whenever she took me to medical appointments where I would mimic the doctors,” she said. “My mom loves to help people as well. She is a caregiver - I always see her helping people, whether that is family or strangers. That's how she raised me, and I think that is where my passion for healthcare comes from.”

While Janichka was drawn to the healthcare field from a very young age, her path did not come without obstacles along the way. In 2012, Janichka’s mother moved her family from Puerto Rico to Boston, a transition that Janichka described as “extremely difficult” and one that took many years.

“Being new here, with English as my second language, was very hard,” she said. “I was bullied at times, and I did not want to stay. Becoming a Red Sox Scholar and now working at BIDMC made me feel like I belong in Boston. As I grew older, I realized that I would never have reached my academic goals or had the same educational resources and opportunities. Every single day I am grateful that my mom moved us here.”

The benefits of being a Red Sox Scholar extend well beyond a financial scholarship. Each Scholar is presented with career exploration opportunities, educational programs, and extensive mentorship. While the program spans from seventh grade through college graduation, Red Sox staff members keep connected with their Scholars beyond college – the program now counts 349 alumni graduates.

“We are intentional about creating a sense of belonging and family so that we can inspire our Red Sox Scholars to not only dream, but to also gain the access and opportunity they deserve to achieve those dreams,” said Bekah Salwasser, Executive Vice President of Social Impact for the Boston Red Sox and Executive Director of the Red Sox Foundation.

One of those opportunities provided to the Scholars is an annual trip to BIDMC, which is the lead sponsor of the Red Sox Scholars program. On the visit, students tour the hospital’s facilities and are guided by BIDMC doctors, nurses and staff. A stop in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where BIDMC cares for very sick infants, is when things clicked for Janichka.

“The nurses spoke to us about what it’s like to work here and I knew this is where I wanted to be,” she said. “I always wanted to work in healthcare, but since that visit, BIDMC stood out to me. It makes me proud that I work for the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. I think it was meant to be.”

That visit sparked a determination in Janichka who, soon after, enrolled for science courses offered by Harvard Medical School where she took two intensive seven-week courses. She also took a college-level anatomy course at Cambridge College then interned at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and other Boston non-profits before landing at BIDMC.

“It’s been so impactful to work with and mentor Janichka through middle school, high school, and now college,” said Lidia Zayas, Assistant Director of Programs for the Red Sox Foundation. “I was there with her when she visited BIDMC in 2018 for our career exploration field trip, and we have been there for her every step of the way since to provide support where it’s needed. She’s taken advantage of every single opportunity and paved the way for others to follow her. We are very proud of Janichka - this is only the beginning for her.”

The 2024 class of Red Sox Scholars will be introduced on Sat. June 1, 2024, at Fenway Park, alongside Red Sox players in an annual pre-game ceremony tradition. For the new class, Fenway represents a field of dreams. It also represents a field of access and opportunity, like it did for Janichka and the hundreds of Scholars before them.

Learn more about the Red Sox Scholars

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a leading academic medical center, where extraordinary care is supported by high-quality education and research. BIDMC is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,700 physicians and 39,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.