Released on April 3, 2024

Rebekah May is among 51 Knights who will be honored for excellence in academics, service and leadership during the Founders’ Day event on April 3.

Rebekah May, 2024 UCF Order of Pegasus honoree
UCF College of Nursing senior Rebekah May, a 2024 Order of Pegasus inductee

“I came to UCF determined to improve the world, but I had no idea how,” says nursing senior Rebekah May.

Rebekah May and Dean Sole with shovels in front of signage for the Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion Groundbreaking.
May, representing the President’s Leadership Council, with College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole at the Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion Groundbreaking Ceremony.

She quickly figured it out and this week, May will be one of 31 students inducted with the 2024 Order of Pegasus — UCF’s highest student honor recognizing exceptional achievements, and she will be honored with a Founders’ Day Undergraduate Student Award at the annual UCF celebration.

After arriving at UCF from Spring Hill, Tennessee, May quickly got involved on campus. First, she volunteered with the UCF Police Department as a LEAD Scholar and then, served as a co-leader at an afterschool club at ACE in Parramore. That is when the environmental science major began to realize her true calling.

“My eyes were opened to the disparities even 20 minutes away from me, and I knew I wanted to help people who needed help the most.”

At that time, May was taking an anatomy class and discovered a passion. “I loved the biological mystery of the human body, and how I could always keep learning,” she says. “I found the intersection of that purpose and interest in nursing.”

Once in the competitive, upper-division Traditional BSN program at the Orlando campus, May’s calling came into a clearer focus. In her first public health clinical, she worked with local service organizations as part of the college’s service-learning curriculum.

“I continued working with those organizations after that clinical, and I joined the President’s Leadership Council to advocate for further UCF volunteer awareness and involvement,” says May. “Since I discovered what I believe to be my purpose, I am intent to make a difference in any way that I can.”

She found further inspiration from attending the UCF MedPact Global Health Conference last spring. After attending a workshop, May together with UCF College of Medicine student Allen Partono were inspired to found a Human Rights Clinic in Central Florida. The clinic seeks to provide asylum seekers with free medical affidavits to support their court cases. The interdisciplinary effort also provides real-world experience for student volunteers to connect with law, nursing, medicine, social work and psychology.

UCF nursing student Rebekah May stands next to a research poster presentation
May presents her research at Harvard’s National Collegiate Research Conference

In addition to her service and volunteer activities, May has maintained a 3.9 GPA in the rigorous nursing program and is conducting original research.

Her Honors Undergraduate Thesis, “Breakfast Skipping in College Students and its Associations with Eating Behaviors,” was presented at Harvard’s National Collegiate Research Conference this past winter. She will be orally presenting her two-stage observational study at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research later this spring, and plans to pursue the challenge of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

May credits the college’s faculty and instructors to her success. “They truly care about my success as a student and as a future nurse leader. If I had not had that level of encouragement, I would not have dreamed so big,” she says.

After graduation, May plans to continue her education, eventually becoming a nurse practitioner and earning a Ph.D. in epidemiology of public health, and she plans to continue her volunteer work to make a difference in global health. “My goal is to use my cultivated education and experience to add to the humanitarian mission of an organization of the CDC or International Committee of the Red Cross.”

Her advice to future students, “Never participate in anything that you are not passionate about. It is the only way that you can be honest in front of the mirror or a committee and say that you spent your time worthwhile.”

“Throughout her time at UCF, Rebekah has truly embraced what it means to be a UCF Knight by carving out precious time and immersing herself in altruistic activities not only in the UCF community but within the Greater Orlando community as well.”

Instructor Donna Breit
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