Alumni Spotlight: Gianna Putnam


Gianna Putnam (class of ‘20) joined TEA’s High School as a Junior. She immediately brought a bright, caring spark to the small 6 person class. In her senior passage presentation, which she had to record virtually due to COVID restrictions, she spoke about how TEA repeatedly forced her outside of her comfort zone – whether it was backpacking in less than optimal conditions or doing a 48 solo camping experience. She reflected that while it wasn’t always fun WHILE she was doing those challenging activities, she did look back with pride and the knowledge that she can do hard things. At graduation, Giana was awarded one of TEA’s first Millennium Scholarships in recognition of her past and future contributions to the world.

Giana set off in fall of ‘20 for Chapman University, excited to study health sciences with a minor in Nutrition. However, her journey to her bachelor’s degree (expected June 2024) was not a straight line and she definitely exhibited TEA character traits of advocacy, perseverance and responsibility in order to pursue her passion. We recently caught up with her and are excited to share the following Q&A.

1) Please tell us a little bit about your college journey. When you graduated from TEA you
headed off to Chapman. Did you stay there? Why not?

I graduated from TEA in May of 2020 during the peak of COVID-19. After TEA I attended Chapman University where I studied health sciences and then switched to psychology. I had a nutrition minor because that is where my passion was. I had known since high school that I wanted to be a registered dietitian (RD), but I did not know enough about how to get to that point. I learned from my nutrition professors at Chapman and through research that I needed to be in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND®). I came across Purdue University because of their Nutrition and Dietetics undergraduate program – I decided to apply for Spring enrollment and spent the beginning of the 2022 year moving to a state I never pictured myself in, Indiana.


2) Where did you end up and what has been the biggest takeaway you have from your college journey?
I am a senior at Purdue University studying Nutrition and Dietetics and I am graduating in May of 2024. The biggest takeaway from my college journey is every exam and quiz gets you one step closer to your dreams and throughout the process you will unravel so much about yourself that you had never known. In terms of your values, beliefs, goals, etc. – insane individual growth.

3) What are your plans after you graduate?
I am currently in the process of applying to graduate schools. As a dietetics student I go through a match process for graduate school. To become an RD you have to obtain a masters and complete a dietetic internship which consists of over 1,000 supervised practice hours in areas/rotations such as community, clinical, foodservice, and more. April 7th is “match day” where all dietetic students across the country open up their computers and log on to see if they got matched to a graduate program. It is like opening college acceptance letters – but even scarier. Once I complete my masters and dietetic internship I will qualify to sit for the RD exam where once passed I will be certified!

4) What do you hope to do professionally?
I hope to open my own private practice as a registered dietitian and work with individuals who have eating disorders. I hope to create avenues and resources to help those fighting their battle through their eating disorder.

5) Have any of the character traits or lessons learned at TEA prepared you for your current or past journey?
TEA taught me that I can do anything and I should do everything that will create a better version of myself. I should take risks that will help prepare me for my future and to use my critical thinking skills when I get stuck.

6) If you were to offer some advice to our current High School Students, including our graduating seniors, what would it be?
There are going to be roadblocks that make you overthink your career or ability to keep pursuing your dreams and goals BUT you are going to be able to tackle them and move forward even if you do not understand why they are there

7) In closing, what or who at TEA are you most grateful for and why?
AH! I am grateful for literally everyone. I am grateful for my teachers and the amazing friends that I created at TEA. Every student at TEA has the biggest heart and I miss the tight knit family community. Katy Watts has helped me through the process of getting into college, transferring colleges, and the process of applying for graduate school. I would not have been able to make the leap to transfer without her guidance and support. Mara provided me with support and guidance throughout my two years at TEA and I would not be the person I am had she not been in my life throughout high school.