Brandi Yasem: 2024 commencement speaker has her heart set on being a cardiovascular surgeon ‣ Laurel Ridge Community College
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Brandi Yasem: 2024 commencement speaker has her heart set on being a cardiovascular surgeon

Yasem on campus
Brandi Yasem is the 2024 commencement speaker.

Laurel Ridge is kind of a family tradition for aspiring cardiovascular surgeon Brandi Yasem, but after her very first day of class, it wasn’t one she was sure she wanted to follow. Her mother, Jan, earned her associate degree at the college before transferring to Longwood University, while her father, John, helped start the HVAC program at Workforce Solutions.

“My mom had a really great experience,” said Brandi. “She told me how much fun it was. She was in PTK and was a Student Ambassador. They both really had good experiences. My dad liked the people here, and thought the professors were great.”

When Brandi decided to attend Laurel Ridge, she felt nervous. On her first day, she found herself having trouble keeping up with her math professor and sitting there confused.

“Once class was over, I went to my car and I called my mom and started crying and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this,’” said Brandi.

Her mom advised her to talk to her math professor and see if he could slow down a bit. Brandi, who is the youngest of five children, heeded her advice and was glad she did.

“I had a really good first semester,” she said. “I had a lot of help from my professors, explaining things.”

And, she got involved in the Student Government Association. While she was homeschooled in high school, Brandi had been class president in the fifth grade at Apple Pie Ridge Elementary. At Laurel Ridge, she served as co-president of SGA. Additionally, she was co-vice president of honors for the Middletown Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international academic honor society for two-year colleges.

“Being a Student Ambassador was my favorite role here at the school,” said Brandi, who received a $3,000 scholarship from the Laurel Ridge Foundation thanks to the generosity of George and Carolyn Glaize.

That position took her to Richmond to meet the college’s representatives in the General Assembly, to South Carolina to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, to Roanoke for a Virginia Community College System conference, and more.

One of her favorite classes was with speech and drama instructor Alyson Thompson.

“Her public speaking will always be the absolute favorite class that I’ve taken,” said Brandi, who took so well to the course that she was the commencement speaker for the Class of 2024.

Another favorite was English Professor Jenni VanCuren.

“I loved American literature with her – that was so much fun – and her technical professional writing class,” said Brandi, who also enjoyed her science professors Ian Hare and Nina Parker. “I loved the professors. The community college life is very welcoming, and I will miss everyone, but I’m so grateful and thankful for the stepping stone Laurel Ridge has provided as I continue on my journey.”

This fall, Brandi is headed to Shenandoah University to study biology before heading to medical school and eventually becoming a cardiovascular surgeon. Being a doctor has been a “driving force” since she was 14.

“I always just wanted to save lives and help people, and I loved science, so I just wanted to combine the two,” Brandi said.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.