Alumna’s passion for children’s health leads to Clinical Nutrition scholarship

Jessica Coleman holds broccoli while standing in a garden

Jessica Coleman at the Children's Garden she founded in Modesto.

Philanthropists Jessica Coleman ’99 and Gregory Coleman are making a clinical nutrition degree accessible to more students by establishing the program’s first endowed scholarship. 

Rooted in Jessica Coleman’s passion for making children and families aware of the benefits of good nutrition, the long-time advocate and alumna sees a direct link to Pacific’s recently launched program.

“I am hoping this will act as a pipeline to provide more registered dietitians in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties,” she said. “Our community is lacking the resources to help parents and children understand the health impacts of their exercise and dietary choices.”

The scholarship will support Pacific students from the Central Valley who intend to complete their clinical rotations in the area, as well as conduct research at the Children’s Garden located behind Valley Children’s Pelandale Specialty Care Center in Modesto. 

The Children’s Garden, created by the Colemans in 2020 through their nonprofit Color the Skies, teaches children how to grow food and prepare healthy meals with the produce.

“Research shows the earlier the exposure to agriculture and gardening, the more likely someone will have a healthy relationship with food over their lifetime,” said Long Wang, chair and program director for Pacific’s Clinical Nutrition program. “Our students will gain experience and their expertise in nutrition will provide a better education for children, their parents and families.”

Coleman sees the difference first-hand.

“Parents are immediately observing their child’s behavior change in positive and impactful ways. Their children want to be part of the process of growing their food which is in turn helping them to enjoy the food,” she said. 

Long-time advocates for children’s health care (Jessica served on Valley Children’s Hospital Foundation Board for many years and Gregory was on the Board of Trustees for more than 20 years), Jessica Coleman’s passion was amplified a few years ago after experiencing a stroke and heart attack caused by a congenital valve defect.

She now serves as an advocate for children’s heart health programs through the American Heart Association with a focus on reducing obesity.

“This mission is so important and it’s time that we recognize that unhealthy habits are slowly killing us and our children,” Coleman said. “Working together with my alma mater, we are hoping to improve this situation.”

five women stand together smiling at the camera

Jessica Coleman (center) with students at a clinical nutrition event in November 2022.

Pacific’s Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition—one of the newest programs in the School of Health Sciences—was launched in 2020 to meet the high demand for registered dietitian nutritionists. Employment opportunities are expected to grow 11% by 2028.

The accelerated 16-month program was the first in California to follow the Future Education Model in which students receive the educational and supervised practice requirements in a single program.

The unique approach creates graduates who are highly qualified for the nutrition and dietetics workforce. The first group of graduates to take the national exam had a 100% pass rate to become registered dietitians.

Since the clinical nutrition scholarship was established, more than two dozen people have donated to the fund. Donations are matched dollar-for-dollar by the university’s Powell Match Program.

Scholarships will be awarded to students beginning fall 2023.