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Promise Endowment offers chance to be a doctor and a dancer

Jasmine Crafton

Jasmine Crafton has made a promise to herself. After earning her bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she'll enter one of the 12 medical schools on her list, become a dermatologist and help people in poor communities. Her promise is part of her 10-year plan. No one doubts her determination.

"You've got to be prepared. Medical school is my plan. I have a backup plan, but I really want to get into medical school," Crafton said. She knows precisely what grades and test scores she needs.

Crafton's pledge to herself is bolstered by the Promise Endowment at UW-Whitewater, a fund that gives an annual award to a College of Letters and Sciences student from an urban area who needs financial help. Preference is given to first-generation college students.

"A lot of kids deserve a break who don't know how to get a break," said UW-Whitewater alumna Tina Pregont of Janesville, a 1980 graduate of the College of Business and Economics. She and her husband, Joseph, started the endowment last year.

Crafton, 20, a junior who was born in Gary, Ind., and grew up in Milwaukee, figures her chance of being a college student was 1 in 1,000. But a sixth-grade teacher assigned a research project that sparked her career dream. And her older sister, Kenesha Crafton, a December graduate of UW-Whitewater, dragged her along to accounting classes when she visited campus as a young teenager.

"I was walking around this big campus and it was just fun and everybody was all happy," she said. "I couldn't wait to get here."

Now that she's here, she's concentrating on her studies, preparing for the medical school admission test and immersing herself in research on plant DNA with biology professor Catherine Chan.

Her backup plan is a master's degree in public health, so she's also preparing for the graduate school admission exam.

"I love school. I love it. I feel like such a geek, but I do love school," Crafton said. "Always, since kindergarten."

She tackles problems head-on. At a national conference on undergraduate research, she faced a large audience to answer questions. Her voice cracked, her hands grew damp. But she intends to practice public speaking so she can present herself well in medical school interviews.

"I think with the practice I'll be great," she said. "I can't just be nervous forever. I don't like not being able to do something."

Crafton surprised some of her advisers by declaring a dance minor.

"I just always wanted to dance. So if I'm going to study, study, study, dance is like therapy to me," she said. "When I'm stumped on a question I turn on the radio and just dance."