BTG Hope

"The BTG Program provides needed resources to the many thousands of community-based organizations that are working to create a more socially just and compassionate world. Because of their support, many nonprofits are able to reach and enrich the lives of many more people."
BTG Community Preceptor
Home >

Pittsburgh Projects

Back to Summaries by Region

Braddock Youth-Led Health and Nutrition Program

Student Intern(s):
Peter Asante, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Anne Ritter, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor(s):
Michael Yonas, DrPH, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Family Medicine

Community Preceptor(s):
Andrea Arrington, MPH, Braddock Youth Project

The Community Site:
The Braddock Youth Project provides a summer and after school employment program for youth aged 14 to 18. The programs include opportunities to restore the community through creative service-learning and team-building educational modules. View Community Partner Web Site

Healthy People 2010:
Leading Health Indicators:  Overweight and Obesity; Physical Activity; Environmental Quality
Focus Areas:  Nutrition and Overweight; Physical Activity and Fitness; Diabetes; Heart Disease and Stroke; Respiratory Diseases

The Project: 
Upon arrival at the Braddock Youth Project, Peter and Anne were asked to contribute to an idea developed by Department of Human Services (DHS) staff members. The proposed project was a nutrition curriculum focusing on portion size to be taught to city youth at Pittsburgh Summer Lunch Program sites. To address this need, the interns created a health- and nutrition-based curriculum, identified youth volunteers from the Braddock Youth Project, trained the volunteers to effectively teach the lessons, and piloted a lesson with children at a summer program in Braddock. To achieve the project objectives, the interns developed a curriculum that included lessons on Fitwits® (a program that focuses on nutrition and portion size with interactive demonstrations and games), lifestyle balance, the fast food pyramid, exercise and asthma. In addition, Peter and Anne assisted in the development of the curriculum for Healthy Practices, a class that all the teens in the Braddock Youth Project core must participate in throughout the summer. Each Healthy Practices class involved an opening exercise, a planned lesson for the day, an activity or game, a cooking class, and dance. Based on the experience, Peter noted, “It is not enough to have a solution to a problem if you are unwilling to listen and collaborate with others. All parties are important, and the efficiency to which one is able to bring all necessary stakeholders to the table results in a product that benefits the communities we all hope to serve. … ‘Presence’ is not just a physical entity, but an unconditional investment in the lives of others and a desire to become part of the community.” Anne commented, “This experience has taught me much more about the importance of community-based youth empowerment programs than I could have learned in any classroom. Additionally, I have been witness to the struggles such programs face and the obstacles that must be overcome in order to effectively communicate health-based information in communities with extremely limited resources. … I have learned that sustainable public health-related projects are very possible in Braddock because of the passion the youth have for bettering their community and the lives of the residents.”

Back to Top

Breaking the Ice: Healthy Sex and Relationship Conversation Starters

Student Intern(s):
Courtney Burns, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Jennifer Marasco, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Sarah Gad, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Academic Preceptor(s):
Martha Ann Terry, BA, MA, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor(s):
Sue Kerr, MSW, Community Human Services
Don McMillan, Community Human Services

The Community Site:
Community Human Services (CHS) Corporation seeks to enhance people’s lives and strengthen communities by providing opportunities to develop individual potential and by delivering comprehensive services that maximize the health and well-being of those it serves in South Oakland and the greater Pittsburgh area. The Mental Health Residential Programs at Community Human Services provide domiciliary care, enhanced supported housing and case management for individuals in need of a supervised living arrangement. View Community Partner Web Site

Healthy People 2010:
Leading Health Indicators:  Mental Health; Responsible Sexual Behavior 
Focus Areas:  Family Planning; Health Communication; HIV; Immunization and Infectious Diseases; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Medical Product Safety; Mental Health; Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The Project:
Working with the Community Human Services (CHS) Corporation, Courtney, Jennifer and Sarah focused their project on designing a relevant sexual health program. They developed and distributed two surveys, one for residents and the other for staff, to gauge the existing comfort level between case managers and residents, and to understand the current level of sexual health knowledge and narrow the scope of the project into topic areas. The feedback received from the surveys identified safe sex, reproduction, STDs/HIV and healthy relationships as four major themes. Since the interns found in their interactions with the residents that games with flashcards engaged the residents in comfortable conversation that helped form relationships, they integrated activities using flashcards as a tool to help case managers engage residents in conversations about sexual health and provide education and resources. Along with the sexual health flashcards, the interns created a resource and information blog that CHS staff can use internally. The blog contains Web sites for further information related to card topics as well as local, state and national resources to help educate and empower staff and residents. Sarah reflected, “Spending time at CHS opened my eyes to the realities of mental health and helped to dispel many preconceived notions I had. … I feel that this experience overall will help me tremendously as a physician. It taught me to look at each patient as a person, and not as a disease, and to not judge a patient by how they appear on the outside. In addition, this experience has vastly improved my interpersonal skills; I feel more comfortable talking with individuals about sensitive subjects, and am more equipped to deal with situations happening in the real world.” Courtney commented, “The best part about working at CHS this summer was getting to know the residents. I got to know them first as individual people with thoughts, dreams and challenges. Next I got to know a little bit about what it was like for them to live with mental illness. I was able to see how wrong the stereotypes about people with mental illness are and how much stigma they have working against them. I only wish so many more people could have this experience.” Jennifer noted, “I am a firm believer in the combination of experiential and academic learning to achieve a deeper understanding of individuals, families and communities alike. For this reason, I am happy to have been a part of the BTG internship. It proved to be a very eye-opening and humbling experience. I will cherish all the great memories I made while spending time with the residents and staff at CHS.”

Back to Top

It’s NOT Just About Your Mouth: Oral Health in Children

Student Intern(s):
Katherine Nicholson, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Michele Doan, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptor(s):
Thuy Bui, MD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Community Preceptor(s):
Deborah Gallagher, Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start
Celeste Stephenson, Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start

The Community Site:
Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start (EHS) Program provides comprehensive child development and family support services for expectant mothers and children from birth to 3 years of age. EHS works with both the caregivers and the children to identify and address possible developmental, environmental and mental health issues. View Community Partner Web Site

Healthy People 2010:
Leading Health Indicators:  Access to Health Care; Injury and Violence
Focus Areas:  Oral Health; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Educational and Community-Based Programs; Nutrition and Overweight; Access to Quality Health Services

The Project:  After consultation with the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center’s (COTRAIC) home visitors and staff, Katie and Michele created a manual to be used by home visitors during their visits with families to promote oral health. The manual covered oral health subjects relevant for pregnant women, and for newborns to age 3, children aged 3 to 5, and children with special needs. The manual also contained information on diet and nutrition, tooth development, water fluoridation in the community, the outcomes of poor oral health, emergency tooth care, pacifier weaning, tips for teething, bottle rot and oral health resources for the community. Since this manual will be available to all Allegheny County EHS programs, Katie and Michele also gathered input from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Pittsburgh Public Early Head Start home visitors. The manual and handouts were designed with knowledge of the barriers to delivering the information to parents, such as a lack of time during visits, interruptions from other children in the household and education levels of parents or guardians. Michele said, “I have learned so much about my very own community. … I have learned the true need in our community and have gotten a better sense of the resources available throughout the city. The lessons learned were so much more influential because I did not sit and hear about it; instead, I was immersed within the reality of many individuals of the community.” Katie noted, “My time with BTG and Early Head Start has been very rewarding. It was very eye-opening to be able to step out of the clinical setting and work with families directly in their own environments. … BTG provided me with an in-depth look at the world of public health and how I can use my clinical background to improve the quality of health care in my community.”

Back to Top

SNAC – Support, Nutrition, and Cooking

Student Intern(s):
Danielle Smulofsky, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Samba Younan, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor(s):
Patricia Nowalk, PhD, RD, University of Pittsburgh

Community Preceptor(s):
Sharon Connor, PharmD, University of Pittsburgh

The Community Site:
The Northside Christian Health Center and the Birmingham Free Clinic provide quality primary health care to underserved populations. The Northside Christian Health Center provides primary care, support groups, medications, bus tickets and other needed services. The Birmingham Free Clinic serves uninsured and indigent clients in Southwestern Pennsylvania. View Community Partner Web Site

Healthy People 2010:
Leading Health Indicators:  Overweight and Obesity; Physical Activity; Tobacco Use
Focus Areas:  Diabetes; Educational and Community-Based Programs; Health Communication; Nutrition and Overweight; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project: 
Working with the staff of the Northside Christian Health Center and the Birmingham Free Clinic, Danielle and Samba learned that the clinics had a large number of high-risk patients who have diabetes along with other conditions, such as hypertension and hyperlipidemia. To address these health concerns, the interns focused on the impact of nutrition and exercise on diabetes. They created a manual that covered the five food groups, serving size, how to read a nutrition label, cooking techniques, easy ways to exercise, specific facts about diabetes and much more. Along with the manual, the interns facilitated four interactive classes for the high-risk patients. Danielle said, “My experience in BTG has taught me about life and about people. … It has truly opened my eyes to a whole new world, which I never could have seen in the classroom. I will definitely take this experience with me and use it to make myself a better pharmacist.” Samba commented, “The BTG program is such an essential part of the advocacy movement here in Pittsburgh. Its goals are to improve the health and overall well-being of vulnerable populations. Through education, community service and organized support groups, my experience … has exceeded my expectations on every level. When I came into the program my goal was to learn about the patients’ needs and to create an appropriate intervention, but what happened was even more.”

Back to Top

Keeping It Real: The Journey Through Addiction and Recovery at Sojourner House

Student Intern(s):
Remy Harris, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Elisabeth Kimmel, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor(s):
Ann Mitchell, PhD, RN, HNC, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Community Preceptor(s):
Sharon Jones, MS, CCDP, Sojourner House
Karen Garland, FESS, Sojourner House

The Community Site:
Sojourner House is a faith-based residential drug and alcohol treatment program for women who are pregnant or have children. Priority is given to pregnant IV drug users. The six-month residential program offers parenting and life skills training as well as clinical treatment for addictions. View Community Partner Web Site

Healthy People 2010:
Leading Health Indicators:  Substance Abuse; Mental Health; Responsible Sexual Behavior
Focus Areas:  Substance Abuse; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health and Mental Disorders; Family Planning; Environmental Health; Sexually Transmitted Diseases; Immunization and Infectious Diseases; Health Communication

The Project: 
Remy and Elisabeth worked with the women of Sojourner House to create the Keeping It Real program addressing the various stages of addiction and recovery—before, during and after treatment. Keeping It Real is a forum for the women to creatively express their journeys through addiction into recovery and to share personal experiences, including secrets, regrets, aspirations and “just for today” declarations in a safe and supportive environment. The interns also developed pre- and post-treatment surveys to evaluate each client’s overall treatment experience. To expand on current agency follow-up practices, Remy and Elisabeth created postcards with encouraging and motivational quotes to remind the clients of the continued support available to them as well as the need for self-care and effective coping skills to stay focused on recovery after completing treatment. Remy said, “Interning with the BTG program has been an incredibly worthwhile experience for me. … It has given me the opportunity to become aware of and to deconstruct my biases and misconceptions about what it means to be an addict. Meeting the women of Sojourner House and hearing their stories has been a privilege. I learned how addiction impacts individuals and families alike; more importantly, I learned these women are not defined by their addictions. I also gained practical experience with systemic issues within the community that impact vulnerable populations like the residents of Sojourner House, making it very challenging to escape cycles of poverty and addiction.” Elisabeth commented, “BTG has been an amazing and eye-opening experience. I learned a vast amount about public health, addiction, interdisciplinary care and the struggles of living in poverty. I had the opportunity to work with mothers who are going through recovery and saw life from an entirely new perspective. It was an honor to both hear their stories and see firsthand the difficulties of going through recovery as a full-time, single mother.”

Back to Top

Summer Series for Success

Student Intern(s):
Elana Barkowitz, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health
Nicole Greenland, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Academic Preceptor(s):
Jessica Burke, PhD, MHS, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor(s):
Nicholas Hartman, Womansplace

The Community Site:
Womansplace, based in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, is a shelter for women and men who have experienced domestic violence. The shelter provides a wide array of services, including a 24-hour hotline; emergency shelter stay; residential and non-residential counseling; support groups; goal planning and options counseling; safety planning; information and referrals; prevention; education and community outreach; and medical, legal and children’s advocacy. Additionally, they provide a three-day stay for individuals who are homeless. View Community Partner Web Site

Healthy People 2010:
Leading Health Indicators:  Access to Health Care; Injury and Violence
Focus Areas:  Access to Quality Health Services; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health

The Project:
Elana and Nicole created the Summer Series for Success program. This five-session series included time management, oral health, stress management, food shopping and cooking on a budget, and self-defense. The topics were based on a combination of the interns’ interests, the residents’ interests and the opinions of the staff at Womansplace. The program explored issues on individual, interpersonal, community and societal levels. The Womansplace staff expressed interest in continuing the sessions. Elana reflected, “I really enjoyed working at Womansplace and being able to have a very hands-on experience. In addition, the reflective sessions taught me so much about health disparities. … Being able to apply the skills I’ve learned in my public health courses while acquiring a bit of social work skills has been invaluable, and I will be a better public health professional because of this practicum.” Nicole commented, “The experience that I had with BTG was both unique and enlightening. I appreciated being able to work so closely with the residents and the staff at Womansplace, as it allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the many complex issues that victims of domestic violence struggle with. The skills that I gained over these past two months will be invaluable in my future employment in the social work profession.”

Back to Top

Going Green! Increasing Hazelwood’s Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Through a NEW Community Garden

Student Intern(s):
Adia Kelly, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Christine Mulkern, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Bridget O'Connor, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Megan Wetzel, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor(s):
Tammy Thomas, MSW, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor(s):
Megan Flanagan, Hazelwood YMCA, 21st Century Program
Lisa Donofrio, Hazelwood YMCA

The Community Site:
The YMCA currently houses a number of programs to engage the youth of Hazelwood and the surrounding communities in positive and health-promoting activities. In addition to running an after school program and a day camp, the YMCA serves as an active partner in the community through a daily soup kitchen and monthly food pantry, both of which provide Hazelwood residents with meals at no cost to meet their basic needs. View Community Partner Web Site

Healthy People 2010:
Leading Health Indicators:  Overweight and Obesity
Focus Areas:  Nutrition and Overweight; Educational and Community-Based Programs; Oral Health

The Project: 
The Going Green project at the Hazelwood YMCA was developed in response to Hazelwood residents’ lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The goal of the project is to promote a healthier diet by increasing community access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The first initiative of Going Green was the start of the Hazelwood YMCA community garden, which allowed the youth to participate in hands-on lessons in the garden that included planting, watering and mulching. The produce from the garden is given back to the community through the Hazelwood Farm Stand and the Soup Kitchen. The second initiative was a six-session Cultures and Cooking class that taught nutritional information and allowed the children to make healthy and tasty recipes during the summer camp. The third initiative was a culmination at the Hazelwood National Night Out, a collaborative event by community organizations including the Hazelwood Initiative and the Center of Life. The National Night Out introduced the community to the Going Green garden as a way to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and educated the community on ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet. Adia noted, “I’ve been very surprised at how much the Hazelwood YMCA is contributing to the community. We know that having funds to do anything is especially difficult during these harder economic times, but I am truly amazed at the number of people the YMCA touches through their ongoing programs. … This summer has truly been a new experience for me, even after doing work in communities for many years. I’ve seen and participated in achieving great accomplishments in the community through true partnership and collaboration. This type of collaborative spirit mixed with resourcefulness is something that I’ve learned here at the YMCA and will continue to employ during my future as a physician and community member.” Christine commented, “I have learned so much over the past seven weeks and I am very thankful for this opportunity. The Hazelwood YMCA Summer Camp really welcomed me into their program, and I could not have asked for a better staff to work with. Throughout the summer I formed some great relationships with the kids and truly enjoyed working with them every day. I feel the kids not only had a great time, but also learned a lot from our cooking/nutrition lessons and from the time we spent in the garden. My hope is that the kids take what they learned this summer and utilize it in their home, school and community.”

Back to Top

BTG 20 Years Video
BTG 20th Anniversary Tribute
"My internship … has affected me deeply. I have learned about the complexities of substance abuse and the struggles women face to remain clean. Working with a student from a discipline other than my own has helped me to view health issues from another perspective."
BTG Student Intern
BTG 20 Years Video
What BTG Means to Us

BTG Photo Gallery BTG Video Archives