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Keynan Kennedy leaning on a gate.

Q&A with Keynan Kennedy

Biology major reflects on his experience with the SC Internship Program

With support from the General Assembly, the University of South Carolina is offering financial supplements to students with internships in high demand industries in South Carolina. Through the South Carolina Internship Program, students receive $3,000 stipends after completing internships in fields such as manufacturing, aerospace, energy, health and life sciences, and financial services.

Keynan Kennedy is a fourth-year biological sciences major from McCormick, South Carolina, and a participant in the program. After graduating, he wants to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine.

What was your summer internship, and how did you get it?

It's kind of funny, I got the internship because I was sick and going to the doctor. He was just chatting with me, asking me what I wanted to do in my life. I told him I wanted to be a doctor that served underprivileged communities. He’s a physician’s assistant and has several private practices across the state. He liked my passion for health care. Toward the end of the appointment, he said, “Hey, I got an internship spot for you here, I love your personality and I think you’ll be a great fit for my team.” And that opened my eyes up because I was really struggling to find an internship that fit my needs. I wanted to do something that was in the Columbia area.

How did the South Carolina Internship Program help you? 

I had to try to find a way to cover expenses such as traveling, food and transportation. Knowing I would be reimbursed for everything that I spent on the internship took a burden off me and my family. Knowing I had that security and having the university reach out every other week to ask me how the internship was going and if there was anything else they could do to help was nice. I encourage other students to apply for the internship program. I’ve been urging people that are struggling to find paid internships to apply and not be afraid to ask for help.

Why did you want to study biology? 

I wanted to major in something to prepare me for medical school. When I was researching USC, I found biological sciences. I always had my eye set on being a politician, but that changed in 10th grade when I started volunteering at Augusta University Hospital and seeing what physicians, nurses and other health care professionals do.

Within medicine, what do you hope to pursue?

I have a lot of athletes in my family, but I’m not one of the best. I was always in the books, but I have always been interested in sports and seeing the day-to-day lives of athletes — what they go through, how they train and stuff like that. My first interest was neuroscience, but then I found out that orthopedics and neuro go hand-in-hand in sports medicine. I ultimately decided to pursue sports medicine.

What attracted you to USC? Were there particular mentors you’ve had along the way?

My mentor in high school is a three-time USC grad. She used to tell me about her time here, the relationships she had with her professors, how they helped her navigate college and made sure the majors she chose were right for her. I really wanted that kind of connection as someone coming from a small high school that did dual enrollment classes at a small technical school.

Stephanie Ackerson, my genetics instructor, also helped me a lot. It was a big transition for me, especially learning how to study on a college level. She really helped me understand and navigate my genetics class because, at first, I was like, “I don’t know what I got myself into.” But after talking to her several times, she was one that really helped me navigate. I learned to keep pushing and never be scared to reach out to people.

What has your experience at USC been like?

I was fortunate enough to join Alpha Phi Alpha, which I love dearly. My fraternity brothers have helped more than I could imagine. I’ve been get involved in student government, the NAACP, AAAS and Black Capstone Caucus — which I’m now the president of. I’ve also worked with the Office of New Student Orientation as an orientation leader and office assistant. I’ve enjoyed meeting new people and hearing stories from people of different backgrounds and their struggles to get over to this country and people that come from all over the world. I am always open to expanding my network and USC has made that possible beyond measure.

Learn more about the South Carolina Internship Program.