Candace Joyner lived through mental illness to become U of O’s top freshman

Daily Emerald (University of Oregon), Oct. 1, 2013

Students hurry to and from classes at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Students hurry to and from classes at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Every year the Office of Enrollment says the same thing. The incoming freshmen class is the biggest, most academically prepared and diverse in University of Oregon history. But every year it’s true

This year’s freshmen class is bringing roughly 3,880 students, with an average GPA of a 3.6, up from last year’s 3.57, as well as a 26 percent representation of minority students.

At the top of the class is Candace Joyner. With a 4.19 high school GPA and countless leadership positions including Student Body President and Social Justice Club President, Joyner is an exemplary student and community member.

She was recognized as such by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation as one of five recipients of a four-year scholarship that provides tuition, room and board and an enrichment fund to study abroad. It is due to this scholarship that Joyner decided to join the UO student body.

“In high school I was definitely an overachiever,” Joyner said. “I think being such an academically rigorous student has allowed me to prepare myself for the course work at the UO. It’s taught me the importance of balance – socially, academically and in terms of maintaining my health.”

Her academic and community involvement achievements are testament to hard work and a dedication to her personal success, but they did not come without sacrifice. Amidst her many pursuits, Joyner’s mental health began to deteriorate as she developed an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.

“The perfectionistic side of me and always wanting to be selfless essentially ended up causing me to lose myself and not take care of myself,” Joyner said. “Now I know that you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before others.”

While her past experiences with her mental health disorder were challenging to overcome, they have also helped her set aim for her future goals.

“It’s had a huge influence on my professional goals because now I’ve seen and felt what pain can feel like when you have self doubt and when you aren’t mentally healthy,” Joyner explained. “I don’t want to see anyone else go through that pain even though I know you can learn a lot from it. My experiences with my mental illnesses showed me an avenue in which I can help people.”

As a general science major, Joyner wants to become a community physiologist in the hopes of improving the mental health of our global community. But before she tackles global health, she wants to take on the Eugene community.

While her plans are still in the developmental stages, Joyner plans on creating an organization or campaign that will address mental health issues in Eugene. With her experience orchestrating Operation IMPACT, an organization that tackled rural poverty by curating and making local resources more accessible for Oregonians inflicted by generational poverty, Joyner knows how to organize community driven outreach projects. Her first steps will be getting a team of like-minded students and professionals to team with her.

“I’m reaching out to different experts in the field so I can create the dream team,” Joyner said. “I don’t have a medical degree, I just have a passion.”