UF graduate is a born leader and an advocate for children

Growing up, Filomena Selvanik learned a lot about empathy and gratitude – often relying on reduced-price school lunches and scholarship opportunities to succeed. Now she is paying her good fortune forward, pursuing a career in pediatric medicine after she graduates from UF on May 4. She wants to spend her life helping children, and she has already started.

“Being a Gator is an opportunity to do whatever you want,” Selvanik said. “You can focus on any passion or any profession.” 

For Selvanik, that passion is medicine. While on the pre-med track, the political science major has spent her days as a patient care assistant worker at UF Health Shands Hospital, and as a children’s support group volunteer at Peaceful Paths (a domestic violence agency in Gainesville). 

She served as the morale director for UF’s 30th Annual Dance Marathon and helped raise $1.5 million to benefit young Shands patients. Selvanik plans to serve pediatric patients in a different way after graduation, by working with them in a hospital setting.

“I have a patient who sits in her crib all day, and I rock her back to sleep each night,” she said.  

Helping kids is just one part of her passion; the other is making sure they have equal opportunities. So she works as a neurology site coordinator at the Equal Access Clinic, which aims to provide affordable, mobile electrocardiograms to patients.

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Selvanik knows how much affordable health care and other critical services can impact children’s lives. Since kindergarten, Selvanik herself relied on the National School Lunch Program, which provided her with low-cost school meals. During high school, this same program allowed her to take the SAT and ACT tests for free and waived any college application fees, which helped her qualify for Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program.  

When she first opened her UF acceptance letter, she had mixed feelings. Selvanik had been accepted to the Promise scholarship program, which is intended to help students from diverse backgrounds (including those who are first-generation college students or are economically disadvantaged) build professional skill sets. 

“It's a great tool for students to better themselves,” Selvanik said. 

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The program helped Selvanik thrive. She later became deeply involved in various campus programs, and she served as the associate chair of the UF Speech and Debate tournament for four years. Her leadership and service work landed her a spot on the 2022 UF Homecoming Court (she was the youngest member). From chomping with children in the parade to sitting in the president’s box during the football game, she enjoyed every second of the event. 

Selvanik was able to accomplish all the goals she set for herself as a Gator. She said UF equipped her to become the best version of herself as she prepared for a successful career.

 Her advice to incoming Gators is simple.

“Try everything you like,” she said. “There’s so many things here to enjoy and get involved in.” 

Halle Burton April 29, 2024