A Girl Scout in childhood, Riley Kenehan initially approached the local office of the organization with an interest in teaching STEM courses and leading projects with local troops. Now a senior in the Bachelor of Nursing Science program at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, that would have been a continuation of work she had done in high school as an assistant teacher, when Kenehan led students through chemistry projects like building volcanoes and coffee paper chromatography.

“The students loved it,” she said of the STEM lessons. “They thought it was magic.”

The Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio loved the idea, but asked if she would consider a different approach.

“They said where we have a big need is with leading a new troop in the [Cleveland Metropolitan School District],” Kenehan said.

Nursing is a demanding major, with mandated clinical hours in addition to regular coursework that begins in the fall of the first year of the undergraduate program. Despite the additional work that being a troop leader would necessitate, Kenehan agreed and the troop started meeting weekly in September 2017.

“There are eight girls in the troop who are now seven and eight years old. We started together when they were five and six. While it has been a time commitment on top of course work and my jobs, I’ve loved getting to know these kids over the years and wouldn’t trade those memories,” Kenehan said.

In addition to the weekly meetings, she tries to schedule one fun larger event or activity each month.

“We went to the Microsoft store in Beachwood and did coding projects with them. The staff were all really patient and engaged with the girls,” she said. “We went to the International Women’s Air and Space Museum in Cleveland. It was the first time visiting for all of us, and we had a great experience.”

Outside of Girl Scouts, Kenehan is a fellow in a program with the VA of Northeast Ohio Healthcare System called the “ENRICH” Grant. The yearlong fellowship conducts research at VA outpatient facilities working interprofessionally with students from different medical and psychosocial disciplines.

Additionally, Kenehan received a small research grant through Senator Sherrod Brown’s office to fund community-based research in Cleveland. She is focusing her research on primary preventative health care teaching and health promotion teaching for the elderly at several day care centers. 

Kenehan, who is from Lake Forest, Illinois, expects to graduate in 2021 with her bachelor’s in nursing and a minor in economics. 

Check out her answers to 

1. What’s your favorite restaurant in Cleveland?

The Cleveland Vegan in Lakewood. I’m not vegan, but I am allergic to dairy and with the environmental impact of animal farming, I try to reduce my consumption of meat.

2. What’s the most difficult class you’ve ever taken?

Healthcare Economics. I’m pursuing an economics minor, and this class was very interesting but also very hard. It shows you a different side of health care. We learned about reimbursements, insurance and policy structure. It also offered a policy and political lens when approaching patient advocacy.

3. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you pick?

I don’t know if I’ve ever considered living outside the U.S. My family has been to Germany, Mexico and France. I really like road trips and traveling around the U.S., especially to Nashville and Milwaukee. I would also like to visit Japan.

4. What famous person—alive or deceased—would you most like to meet?

Atul Gawande. He’s a physician in Massachusetts and works at Harvard. I read a few of his books as a first-year student and that’s what made me interested in working in gerontology. In his book Being Mortal, he talks about death in the U.S. and chronic disease and how medicine has historically focused on solving illness and maintaining health and identifying what’s important to people. It talks about the structure of hospice and home health care, and going back to a more traditional end-of-life care and an intergenerational structure of care. There have been a lot of proven benefits to past methods, and he contrasts it with how it is today where most people die within hospitals versus at home. I read that book while doing hospice care and it really made me think about things. Over the last two summers, I worked as a nursing assistant doing hospice care, palliative care, long-term rehabilitative care, home care, nursing home care, dementia/memory care and assisted living care. I’ve loved every day of the work. 

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I feel like there are a lot of opportunities available here if you look for them—for example, the ability to do research, which I did during my first year. I think there is something for everybody in any major, and if you advocate for yourself, you can go to some interesting places.