Meet Nicholas Correia

On Believing and Belonging

Nicholas Correia

Steppingstone 2011 / Brimmer and May School 2017 / Brown University 2021

Nick featured as WCVB-TV “A+” scholar

Ask Nicholas Correia about the future, and the Brown University senior and aspiring pediatrician will excitedly share his dreams of a more equitable world.

For Nick, there’s one “smaller” dream that’s coming ever closer—and always close to his heart: “I’m just excited for my family to see me graduate from college this spring.”

“Thinking about that moment, I can see my mom cheering me on,” he shares, pausing to hold the image in his mind. As Nick contemplates medical school, he gratefully recounts his mom’s devotion to his education. He knows what she has gone through, working in housekeeping at a Boston hospital to help make his dreams possible.

From Steppingstone to Brimmer and May to Brown, “she’s been my support system.”

Nick speaking at Brimmer graduation

His parents had come to this country from Cape Verde in the late 1990s, seeking more expansive opportunities for their children. Growing up in Dorchester, Nick was often their translator for doctors’ appointments. At a young age, he saw the health disparities faced by historically marginalized communities. That experience continues to shape his life goals.

REPRESENTATION MATTERS
At Brown, he’s become more involved lately in a coalition of first-generation college students. It’s helped him understand his own identity and what it’s meant to him to be the first in his own family to go to college. Having coped with many of the feelings he sees in younger students, he wants to be there for them.

This past summer, he returned to Steppingstone as a teaching intern, after having been a high school intern as well. When he’s with Scholars, even now via Zoom, “I see a lot of myself in these kids,” he adds. “I know what it’s like to be raised in the same kind of communities and circumstances.”

Taking the lead with Brown classmates

He’s had kids say, “You get it, Mr. Correia.” When he feels that sense of connection and sees their smiles, “that’s one of the most rewarding parts of it.”

He hopes that, for Scholars, seeing a young Black person about to graduate from an Ivy League school helps them know it’s possible. He wants them to know their experiences will be validated. When they get to college, he wants them to think and feel: “I belong. I was destined to go to this place.”

“Representation matters,” he reiterates. “It matters a lot.”

ADDING CLARITY TO HIS VISION

In returning to Providence for his senior year at Brown this fall, Nick’s lived off campus while taking classes remotely. He just added biology as a second undergraduate major, combining it with his ongoing pursuit of a bachelor’s in economics. Studying immunology and vaccines has been “incredibly relevant to what’s going in the world.”

Exploring science in high school

Amid everything else, he’s also started doing research, working with a team at Brown’s School of Public Health focused on evaluating opioid treatment programs across New England.

As part of his role, he codes tapes of counseling sessions between clinicians and clients, documenting how well the treatment follows established protocols. It gives him a window into the human side of care. As he listens, “I can hear the tears,” Nick says. “It’s so moving to know how medicine can directly impact people’s lives.”

Together, his courses and clinical research work have added even greater clarity to his vision of medical school in his future.

DISCOVERING HIS PASSIONS
With the pandemic ongoing, he and his Brown classmates have done their best to create a semblance of extracurricular life. He’s the senior class’s co-president for the social branch of student government. In their efforts to foster community, they’ve organized events ranging from an online music festival to a trivia night to bring classmates together. He’s also in charge of planning the traditional “senior week” activities for his own class.

Nick performing with his fellow cast members

As busy as he is, one thing Nick misses these days is performing. After discovering theater at Brimmer and May, “I just fell in love with it!” he exclaims. Once “the quiet kid in the back,” he found a passion for singing and acting that helped him grow out of his shell. “Every time I’m on stage, I feel free,” Nick explains. “I love the opportunity to be in someone’s else’s shoes.”

Whether he’s part of an ensemble or the play’s lead, “we’re all a team,” he adds. He loves that team aspect, and “I carry that with me into so much of the collaborative work I do.

GIVING BACK

While he’s kept pushing through the day-to-day challenges, “I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough,” he admits. As the nation has faced so many issues, including a reckoning with systemic racism, it’s been a year of “being comfortable with the uncomfortable,” as he puts it. Yet he’s hopeful for what he sees on the horizon, including finally “a return of a belief in science.”

“Now more than ever, we also need to look at educational disparities,” he reflects. Working with Steppingstone Scholars in the midst of it all brought into focus how much the program means to them and their families.

Nick and his mother

“I’ve always wanted to give back to Steppingstone because it gave so much to me,” Nick reflects. “It’s taught me so much. It’s a place where I learned what it means to be a community, to have people supporting you,” he adds. “Its lessons in how to build and be engaged in a community are something that I’ve brought to every place I’ve been.”

Steppingstone has continued to be there for him “every step of the way”—including through a scholarship presciently established by a Steppingstone donor to provide “last-dollar” funding critical to helping Scholars afford college.

In Nick’s very first Steppingstone summer a decade ago, “I remember saying the oath every day, and repeating: ‘I am going to college.’ We were constantly told we could do it. That was ingrained in my mind. Everyone there believed it. That energy brought it to life for me.”

This spring, he’ll have a new refrain, “I am going to medical school.” His mom will be cheering him on, and she won’t be alone.