Next Door alumni Mariah: Working toward medical school

When Mariah Pondexter looks back to her early years at Next Door, visits to the library to select free books stand out vividly.

“It was your book that you could take home and keep for as long as you wanted, read it as much as you wanted and you didn’t have to worry about returning it to the library,” Mariah recalled.

Mariah visited the library with her classmates as part of Next Door’s Books for Kids program, which collects donated books from the community and distributes them for free to Next Door students to help build their home libraries.

“I did really enjoy that program and I remember it fondly,” Mariah said.

Mariah attended Next Door in the 1990’s from ages three to five. Today, she’s 26 and busy building her resume for medical school.

“I’ve always wanted to become a doctor since I was really young,” Mariah said. “I want to give people a chance to live, take care of them and make sure they’re OK.”

Mariah’s resume includes: a bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison where she earned a full-ride academic scholarship, a year in AmeriCorps serving in Milwaukee Public Schools and a year overseas in England earning a master’s degree in Public Health at New Castle University.

From her studies in England, Mariah gained valuable experience learning about preventative care strategies and doctor-patient relationships. She focused her dissertation on diabetes prevention and started building a bedside manner to better connect with her future patients.

“I think as a doctor, I’ll be more aware of the different kinds of factors that affect people’s decisions about their health,” Mariah said.

After finishing her master’s program, Mariah decided to take one more step before medical school.

In spring of 2019, Mariah earned her Basic Life Support credential at Waukesha County Technical College to become an Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT. She currently works for the Milwaukee-based company, Para-Tech.

“I wanted to get some actual experience working with patients in the healthcare field and thought working as an EMT would be a good start,” Mariah said.

She’s working 12-hour shifts as an EMT while applying to medical schools.

Mariah’s dream is to attend medical school in Wisconsin and eventually serve the north side community where she grew up.

“I want to work in underserved communities and low-income communities, and be able to help people who might not have the resources to get the medical care they need,” Mariah said.

A picture of Mariah during her early days at Next Door!