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Pittsburgh Projects - 2016

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Health and Wellness at Bethlehem Haven

Student Interns:
Katherine Halza, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Maria Jeronimo Talavera, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Social Work and Graduate School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
Ann Mitchell, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FIAAN, FAAN, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Community Preceptors:
Sarah Dittoe, Residential Program, Bethlehem Haven
Sharon Higginbotham, PhD, COO, Bethlehem Haven
Celia Kinville, MSW, Wellness Program, Bethlehem Haven

The Community Site:
The Bethlehem Haven Women’s Shelter, in downtown Pittsburgh, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing numerous services, including emergency shelter; transitional housing; permanent supportive housing; medical, dental, obstetric and mental health services; and employment services to women in the Pittsburgh area. The Haven also provides some medical, mental health and employment services to nonresidents, including homeless men. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational and Community-Based Programs; Health Communication; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness; Social Determinants of Health

The Project:
As Bethlehem Haven was starting a new Wellness Program to provide the women with fitness and healthy lifestyle opportunities, the Bridging the Gaps student interns saw an opportunity to supplement the program with an eight-week curriculum (the length of time the women are allowed to stay in the emergency shelter) covering a different health topic each week. They also created a bookmark to be given to the women at intake to ensure that those who do not stay the full 60 days still have exposure to the information. In addition, after observing miscommunication and confusion about what is expected from the women to obtain housing and which staff members can assist them in this process, the interns created a housing checklist and three different budgeting tools to help the women achieve and maintain permanent housing. The tools target the times when the women are in the shelter and, afterward, when they are in permanent housing or supportive permanent housing. The checklist and budget tools are given to the women at intake.

Personal Statements:
Katherine said, “This internship has let me see the different social and societal layers that affect health as well as learn about different issues that affect the homeless population that I had not previously known about. When working in the day-to-day lives of these people, I can now realize the importance of the small victories towards a better life and better health, instead of wanting the whole problem fixed right away. Remembering this fact will help me throughout my career as a pharmacist as I strive to improve the health of patients, and consider their social lives as working in conjunction with their medical ones.”
Maria said, “Bridging the Gaps has helped me to realize how much policy shapes the work that we are able to do and [can lead us to] one-size-fits-all interventions. Every individual is unique, and thus the interventions that we use must be flexible and readily able to meet the client where they are. … Due to each story being different, we have to learn to be patient with our clients, and this means that we have to rejoice in the small victories as well as understand that change can’t be forced on an individual; rather, it has to be something the individual wants to be long lasting.”

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Is Life a Bowl of Cherries? Re-“Imaging” the Picture of Food Security

Student Interns:
Megan Sybeldon, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Kristina Wint, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

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

Community Preceptor:
Jon Hoffman, Chief Operating Officer, Community Human Services

The Community Site:
The mission of Community Human Services is to empower individuals and families to live in stable housing, connect to community resources, build relationships and access quality food. Last year alone, CHS prevented more than 1,500 adults and children from becoming homeless, supported more than 145 adults and seniors with disabilities to remain living independently in their own homes, connected 1,400 people each month with fresh produce in its food pantry and helped more than 80 families prepare their young children for preschool. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health Communication; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Nutrition and Weight Status; Preparedness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns performed a pilot photovoice project with customers from the CHS food pantry to learn more about the customers’ lived experience and how the pantry could better meet their needs. The photos taken by CHS customers show how the food pantry has helped supplement their diets and the creative ways they have used the food. The final images from this campaign will be placed on postcards and given to future funders of the CHS food pantry to help garner additional support so the food pantry can reach more members of the community. The interns also created a guide to continuing the project for anyone who wishes to do so.

Personal Statements:
Megan said, “This has been an eye-opening opportunity for me. Those of us in the health care fields are often focused on conditions and what factors go into them, but we are not as exposed to the social factors in someone’s life. CHS has shown me that even though life can be difficult, people show a great deal of resiliency. The CHS staff and the clients have both taught me many ways to create a welcoming environment for all.” Kristina said, “My time at CHS has been a learning experience, not only academically, but full of life knowledge as well. When faced with large, institutional-level problems, like poverty and homelessness, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, as if a small solution is nothing but a bandage on a gushing wound. But my time at CHS has taught me that small interventions make the world of difference—that by providing food or a home, and ultimately both, you can start the process of completely changing a person’s life and their entire well-being.”

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Early Head Start Child Care Staff Health & Safety Handbook

Student Interns:
Lisa Haen, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health
Jennifer Mena, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Rachel A. Fusco, PhD, MSW, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Community Preceptors:
Pam Dickinson, BS, COTRAIC Early Head Start
Deborah Gallagher, MEd, COTRAIC Early Head Start
Katelyn Kaczorowski, RN, COTRAIC Early Head Start

The Community Site:
COTRAIC EHS families live at or below the poverty line, with children who range from newborn to age 3. The mission of COTRAIC is to promote the socioeconomic development of the Native American community and others who experience the same type of difficulties in the greater Pittsburgh area. Services include child development, physical and mental health and nutrition services, family support, disabilities support, community partnerships and support for pregnant women. Early Head Start provides services through home visitors who work with the families for an hour and a half each week or through child care centers that partner with Early Head Start and Head Start. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health Communication; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Oral Health

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns created a health and safety handbook to increase the child care partners’ staff members’ understanding of the Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership and the EHS health and safety standards. The handbook aims to increase communication, collaboration and compliance between the two partnering entities. The interns used information gathered from a literature search on current child care standards and from conversations with child care staff and directors and EHS child care liaisons. With this information, the interns created an accessible, understandable handbook that contains sections on hygiene, safety, communicable illness management and prevention, and emergency preparedness. The handbook will be used by child care staff and child care liaisons to improve compliance with EHS health and safety standards.

Personal Statements:
Jennifer said, “My time with the BTG internship has been an eye-opening, transformative and thought-provoking experience. I have learned so much about the current state of child care and early childhood education in low-income communities and the hard work that is being done to continue to improve it. This experience has moved me to become more attentive to the social issues that plague low-income families and more actively involved in addressing them. It has further motivated me to dedicate my life to taking care of women and children.” Lisa Sophia said, “The BTG internship has been an absolutely unique experience which further encouraged my personal and professional passion to improve maternal and child health. Spending time with young children of low-income families who are placed in poor-quality daycares and seeing how some essential health and safety practices (e.g., handwashing) are missing in the children’s daily routine really makes you consider how this might affect their future attitude towards these health behaviors. This internship did not only introduce me to a very important yet often not prioritized field of public health, but due to its interdisciplinary approach, the BTG internship also helped me expand my skill set in a way I’ve not experienced before.”

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Fuel and Fun

Student Interns:
Annemarie Malbon, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work, COSA
Lauren Ojeda, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, BCHS

Academic Preceptor:
Mark Friedman, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Laura Kelley, MSW, Heritage Community Initiatives

The Community Site:
For more than 30 years, Heritage Community Initiatives has been privileged to serve thousands of families facing socioeconomic challenges through three major focus areas: education, transportation and addressing the needs of constituents through a series of pragmatic, life-enhancing initiatives. Although Heritage Community Initiatives is proud to call Braddock, Pennsylvania, its hometown, the organization serves 30 communities in Allegheny County. For the past three years, with the help of the Bridging the Gaps interns, Heritage Community Initiatives has run a Summer Nutrition Program that provides a free lunch and snack to youth 18 and under. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Health Communication; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
The Summer Nutrition Program (SNP), one of Heritage’s life-enhancing initiatives, works to address the social and health inequities faced by low-income residents in Braddock who are experiencing food insecurity. The interns sought to strengthen the quality and implementation of Heritage’s SNP and to document its functioning by developing, implementing and documenting three projects: a comprehensive program manual, a hydration station and a playspace. The interns worked with their community mentor to develop a printed and digital program manual comprising an operation plan, an outreach tool kit, and a facilitation and resource section. The hydration station—a sustainable way to deliver water to the youth— was conceived after the interns’ experience in the first week. The station provides an oral-health-friendly alternative to sugary drinks. The playspace project arose from a desire to transform a unwelcoming, desolate, unsafe environment into a friendly, colorful space that promotes physical activity, and that both the youth and the community can enjoy.

Personal Statements:
Annemarie said, “The concept of ‘community’ has always interested me, and, through school, work, volunteer and travel experiences, I have learned that community is a complex creation with many varying influences, including housing, safety, history, access and neighbors. This summer, as a Bridging the Gaps intern, I have come to appreciate that ‘health’ is also a broad concept with multiple social factors—from nutrition and exercise to medical care access and societal and family expectations. Both ‘health’ and ‘community’ involve personal and individual aspects that overlap and intersect. Thus there can be no one solution for building communities or promoting health; rather, responses must be as varied and comprehensive as the issues they address—and must truly engage individuals within communities to be effective.” Lauren said, “In modern discourse, we often characterize communities as ‘good’ or ‘bad’; we see the world in ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ However, by painting in such broad strokes, we lose the nuances critical for attaining a humanistic and holistic understanding of the world around us. These strict binaries, while convenient placeholders in our language use, annul the lived experiences and complex realities of the members of our communities. As individuals aspiring to make a positive difference in our world, we cannot become complacent to the type of language which stigmatizes communities and silences the voices of individuals. Instead, let us use our power and privilege as platforms to raise our communities and grant individuals the recognition and autonomy to speak for themselves.”

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Sisters Plate

Student Interns:
Alexandria Budney, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Health Policy and Management
Ka Ron Spriggs-Bethea, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Academic Preceptor:
Tracy Soska, PhD, Assistant Professor, COSA Chair and Continuing Education Director, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Community Preceptor:
Mary Parks, CSJ, Executive Director, Sisters Place
Patricia Wood, MSW, Program Director, Sisters Place

The Community Site:
Sisters Place is a supportive housing community assisting single-parent families experiencing homelessness in southwestern Pennsylvania. Its mission is to assist families toward self-sufficiency by providing housing and supportive services on both a temporary and long-term basis. Programs include child development and education case management, summer camp, a food bank and therapeutic support groups. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Health Care; Food Safety; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Nutrition and Weight Status

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns’ project was based on “Sisters Plate,” a recipe book that builds off the Bridging the Gaps 2015 community garden. Each recipe was selected with consideration of the food that is available in the Clairton community or available at a once-a-month food bank provided to the residents by Sisters Place. The recipes are healthier alternatives to many recipes that the residents typically make and are priced per serving to ensure that the residents stay within their budgets. The interns included a refrigerator guide to teach the residents how to store food properly to make it last between trips to the grocery store (a 20-minute drive away). There is also a MyPlate guide for parents to teach their children how to eat a well-balanced meal.

Personal Statements:
Ka Ron said, “My experience with Bridging the Gaps was by far one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. Being able to meet with residents and how willing they were to accept us into the program is something that I will cherish forever. Having the opportunity to connect with the residents really helped me see more techniques of interacting with clients and showing that you care about their situations.” Alex said, “This summer at Sisters Place gave me an opportunity to see how policy that is written in ivory towers affects the people it was designed to benefit, such as homeless children and families. However, Sisters Place has also showed me that the current policies aren’t necessarily as effective as they could be. It is my goal to use what I have experienced here to create policies that take into consideration the reality that these people face every day.”

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Healthy Practices at the Braddock Youth Project

Student Interns:
Nefertiti Clavon, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health
Clarissa Masdar, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Academic Preceptor:
Martha Ann Terry, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Jessica Gumbert, Program Coordinator, Braddock Youth Project

The Community Site:
The Braddock Youth Project (BYP) is a youth employment program that serves youth aged 14 to 18 living within and around the Braddock community. BYP has both school-year and summer programs that allow youth to develop work skills that will help them advance toward positive life outcomes through meaningful, sustainable community development projects that are generated and maintained by the youth. Participants choose one of five teams: media, mentoring, gardening, ceramics and community outreach. KEYS AmeriCorps members serve summer terms as team leaders and act as valuable resources for the youth in project development. The BYP model seeks to empower the youth to use their creativity to make positive change that is of interest and significance to them in their community. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Food Safety; Health Communication; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Nutrition and Weight Status

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns were assigned to work with the cooking program, one of the newest programs implemented at BYP. Each gardening team spent one afternoon per week in the kitchen learning how to cook. The student interns assisted the cooking instructor by ensuring that the youth were following safety protocols. They also educated the youth about topics related to health and wellness. To help ensure that the youth would use what they learned in the kitchen, the interns created a booklet that included the recipes they cooked, along with information about food safety, healthy eating, kitchen work and physical activity.

Personal Statement:
Clarissa said, “As a social work student, we always talk about issues that communities at risk are facing. The Bridging the Gaps experience, however, allowed me to see firsthand how issues, specifically food insecurity and poverty, impact people. Additionally, my experience at BYP has taught me about the importance of meaningful programs for youth that allow them to learn important skills while also being involved in their communities.”

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Center of Life Wellness Curriculum

Student Interns:
Maddie Lepore, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Miranda Steinkopf, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptor:
Thistle Elias, DrPH, MPA, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptors:
Charonda Hill, MSOL
, Director of Operations, Center of Life
Kandace Powell, MSW, Family and Outreach Specialist, Center of Life

The Community Site:
Center of Life is a community empowerment organization located in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Center of Life was founded in 2002 by the Reverend Tim Smith to aid in the revitalization of the community and its people. Center of Life’s mission is to help families and youth by offering a variety of after-school programs, family outreach groups and summer camps with a focus on education, art, music and sports. The Center of Life staff believes that “everything is about people.” View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Preparedness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns got to know the children of Hazelwood through the Voices Summer Camp. The interns quickly heard from staff and observed for themselves that the children lacked any real understanding of health and wellness. In response, the interns developed a wellness curriculum for Center of Life staff to use during the summer of 2016 and in the future. To kick off the curriculum, the interns taught three different lessons during their time at Center of Life. The interns actively engaged the children in various activities concerning personal hygiene, nutrition, physical activity and healthy relationships. They also put together a wellness curriculum binder for staff members to help them ensure that the children remember what they learned and to teach the children additional information.

Personal Statements:
Miranda said, “BTG CHIP has given me invaluable experiences this summer that have undoubtedly shaped me to be a better health care provider. Possibly the most valuable piece of knowledge that I am taking away from this is that one should never make judgments about what another person may have or not have or what another person may have experienced in life. An open, kind and empathetic mind is one of the best tools to have when working with any individual or group of people. Center of Life taught me that the youth are the gateway to making a better future a reality, and if you can uplift and inspire them in the most positive ways, the possibilities can be endless. This gives me hope for our future as a city, nation and world.” Maddie said, “The experiences I have gained through my BTG CHIP internship have undoubtedly enabled me to grow as a health care professional in a manner that greatly exceeds what is capable through education alone. This unique opportunity to work with a group of at-risk children from the Hazelwood neighborhood has not only deepened my understanding of the specific needs of the community, but has given me valuable insight into the most effective ways of reaching, engaging and ultimately assisting those individuals. … I hope that I have given back even a small portion of what the community of Hazelwood has given me this summer, and I can say with confidence that I am planning on continuing my affiliation with Center of Life throughout my professional career.”

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Gwen’s Girls C.A.N.

Student Interns:
Shannon Hughes, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health
Shannon Mance, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor:
Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of UPMC

Community Preceptor:
Denise McGill-Delaney, MSW, Gwen’s Girls

The Community Site:
Gwen’s Girls was founded in 2002 by former Pittsburgh Police Commander Gwendolyn J. Elliott, who noticed the plight of girls and young women in high-risk populations and the lack of services that would meet their complex needs. The mission of Gwen’s Girls is to empower girls and young women to have productive lives through holistic, gender-specific programs, education and experiences. Gwen’s Girls offers services for girls aged 8 to 21, including foster care, after-school programs, summer camp, prevention, reunification and a group home. Camp Destiny, Gwen’s Girls’ summer camp program, provides structured time for the girls to focus on building life skills, hobbies and interests, along with time for general summer fun. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Injury and Violence Prevention; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns engaged with the girls on a daily basis through Gwen’s Girls’ after-school and summer camp programs. Building close relationships with the girls was essential in implementing the interns’ health and wellness curriculum during weekly Bridging the Gaps sessions. The topics they addressed ranged from healthy relationships to sugar consumption to body positivity through physical fitness. The interns also conducted a “visual voice” project investigating the community factors the girls want to change through social action, such as reducing gun violence in their neighborhoods. In response to feedback from Gwen’s Girls group facilitators, the interns created a staff activity book to supplement staff resources in order to improve classroom engagement and employee support. In addition, the interns stimulated awareness of environmental sustainability by implementing a recycling program with help from the Allegheny County Health Department.

Personal Statements:
Shannon Mance said, “I really enjoyed my summer at Gwen’s Girls and having the opportunity to get to know such a great and inspiring group of girls. It was amazing to work with an organization that gives these at-risk youth a safe place to learn, grow, foster their strengths and become their best selves. Some of the biggest things that this experience has taught me are to always try to see the best in people, the value of hearing others’ stories, and to realize that kids have a number of external factors affecting their lives and behaviors. During my time with the girls I learned how priceless patience, compassion and flexibility can be when working with children and adolescents. This experience helped me to realize how passionate I am about at-risk youth and underserved populations, and I hope to continue working with these populations in the future.” Shannon Hughes said, “I am forever grateful for the exploratory opportunity that Gwen’s Girls shared with me. On a personal level, Gwen’s Girls allowed me to witness the social and cultural determinants of health of these young girls, especially in relation to their experiences with gun violence in the community. These girls inspired me on so many levels and empowered me to build upon my strengths... I know that the strength, solidarity and beauty of these girls will continue to fire my passion to fight for equity and justice throughout my life. Thank you, Gwen’s Girls!”

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Coaches’ Catalyst

Student Interns:
Leslie Carrese, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Manasa Ranginani, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
Sharon E. Connor, PharmD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Thistle Elias, DrPH, MPA, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Justin Forzano, Cameroon Football Development Program and Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community
Mark Taylor, Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community

The Community Site:
Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community was founded in 2004 by James Meara and Mark Taylor. Their mission for more than 10 years has been to provide sport-based youth development programs in underserved neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. They seek to improve the quality of life for youth of all ages in Pittsburgh by incorporating health education, leadership and life skills into the game of soccer. The program is especially interested in developing coaches as mentors. In order to reach a greater number of kids, Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community also collaborates with community-based organizations that provide students with organized sports activities throughout the summer. Through these programs, Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community seeks to assist children in making positive, healthy and informed life decisions. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Substance Abuse

The Project:
After recognizing the needs of the organization and conducting a community needs assessment, the BTG student interns built a curriculum to provide structure and consistency in support of the organization’s mission to provide high-quality soccer training and important life lessons for underserved children. The interns created a portable curriculum tool for the coaches in the form of coaching cards. The topics in the curriculum aimed to educate children on a wide range of issues—from nutrition and exercise to conflict resolution and integrity. The curriculum was intended to encourage discussion of health and social topics while maintaining organized soccer sessions. The interns provided a step-by-step sequence for the sessions while allowing freedom in the choice of soccer activities and drills.

Personal Statements:
Leslie said, “This experience was one of special importance for me. Being able to work with these young children and teach them about a game I have been playing all my life was extremely meaningful. It was humbling to take a step into their tiny shoes and listen to their ideas, opinions and feelings about not only soccer, but about the topics we incorporated in the sessions. Our work with the children and on the curriculum opened my eyes to the hard work behind creating thoughtful, creative and engaging education, but also unveiled the power of it. I will undoubtedly carry this experience with me as I move forward in social work and continue to learn from people of all walks of life.” Manasa said, “The children taught me more about soccer and life than I could ever aim to teach them. Their kindness, affection and laughter reminded me that in spite of our past there is hope for our collective future. I am grateful for this experience as it taught me that patience, humor and communication can go a long way in tackling problems. Due to this community health internship, now when I look at statistics in public health I will look beyond the numbers at the people and communities those numbers represent.”

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