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Pittsburgh Projects - 2017

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Health and Wellness at Bethlehem Haven

Student Interns:
Lan Pham, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Amy Zahn, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptor:
Todd Bear, PhD, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Laura Kelley, MSW, Heritage Community Initiatives, Director of Business Development

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

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Elder Health and Senior Quality of Life; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked with Assembly of the Ages, an intergenerational program that aims to engage seniors and youth by providing mentorship for the youth and reducing social isolation among seniors. This summer, Assembly of the Ages was piloted in the form of two shared lunch sessions, held during the original summer nutrition lunch period. During these sessions, youth and seniors engaged through icebreakers that provided information on interests, assets, and needs. In the future, Assembly of the Ages will host seasonally themed dinners and activities that unite the youth and seniors of Braddock and the surrounding area.

Personal Statements:
Lan said, “I was given the opportunity to delve into a whole new side of reality that, until now, I’ve only heard about. Too often, families living in poverty are assigned a number, but Bridging the Gaps allowed me to see the other side of these statistics. In a world that focuses so much on quantitative evidence, we miss out on so many of the qualitative aspects that need to be taken into account, many of which must be experienced to understand. I have learned so much about myself from working with the kids at the summer nutrition program. I admire their strength, as they are able to find joy in the midst of their relentless hardships.” Amy said, “My time at Heritage was an eye-opening experience that made me realize the privilege in my own life. From the kids, I learned to stay curious and to stay positive. From the internship, I learned that the decisions people make about their lives and their health are never purely right or wrong. The decisions are as right as they can be given the circumstances the people are in.”

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Post-Secondary Pathways Curriculum at South Hills Interfaith Movement

Student Intern:
Dylan McNulty, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

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

Community Preceptor:
Casey Rich, Assistant Family Center Director, South Hills Interfaith Movement

The Community Site:
The mission of the South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM) is to empower struggling families to achieve self-sufficiency. SHIM provides services that help bridge the various areas of need created by suburban poverty. It has been providing food, clothing and other services to those in need in Pittsburgh’s southern suburban neighborhoods for nearly 50 years. More recently, SHIM’s Family Center in Prospect Park, located in Whitehall, has begun to expand services and shift the ways in which they are offered, due to a monumental influx of diverse refugee families into the area. View Community Partner Web Site

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

The Project:
The Prospect Park apartment complex is home to a large number and variety of refugee families. The Prospect Park Family Center estimates that 65 to 75 percent of its residents are foreign-born. The older youth of Prospect Park attend Baldwin High School, which supplies students with a fairly comprehensive packet encompassing opportunities for students after high school. However, this information is provided in a way that is unserviceable culturally or linguistically to many, if not most, of the parents of the refugee students. The parents are an untapped and important driving force in preparing the youth for their futures. The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed a multi-workshop curriculum addressing the many types of opportunities and pathways—including colleges and universities, the military, and career and technical schools—available to students after high school, along with the context and importance of pursuing these opportunities and the ways in which students and families can prepare themselves for these changes. This curriculum can be administered concurrently in English and other languages so that students and parents can learn together about the process. The curriculum includes post-workshop packets for attendees with workshop summaries and links to websites to conduct additional research, as well as references for SHIM staff to implement continuous quality improvement as institutional and governmental policies change.

Personal Statement:
Dylan said, “As a future health care professional, my time at SHIM has furthered my understanding of the necessity of better understanding the unique needs of each individual. Too often do we churn out information and resources without sensitivity to the ways in which that information is utilized, and, perhaps more important, whether or not it is presented in a way that truly educates and empowers others. I hope to keep the lessons learned from the amazing team at SHIM and the Prospect Park residents with me throughout both my professional career and personal life.”

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Feel Like Home: Resources for the Children and Staff at CHS

Student Interns:
Michael Hess, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
William Louth, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Thuy D. Bui, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Thistle I. Elias, DrPH, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Brandi Harrison, Community Human Services

The Community Site:
The mission of Community Human Services (CHS), located in Oakland, 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 with fresh produce in its food pantry (each month), and empowered more than 80 families to ready their young children for preschool. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Disabilities Conditions; Health Communication; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Tobacco Use

The Project:
CHS asked the Bridging the Gaps student interns to visit its different sites in Oakland and interact with the residents to find out about their needs. After a needs assessment conducted via a survey, a community meeting, art projects and interviews with residents and staff, the interns concluded that on-site and off-site activities for child residents at McKee Family House and a resource manual for staff to aid in connecting residents to outside resources were needed. The interns then researched and created relationships with outside organizations that could institute sustainable programming, such as monthly guest readers from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and ticket donations to Pirates games. Additionally, the interns established relationships with other community resources such as summer camps, FitUnited’s education curriculum, Tobacco Free Allegheny and Project D.U.M.P. (Disposal of Unused Medications Properly).

Personal Statements:
Michael said, “Prior to Bridging the Gaps and Community Human Services, I had not dealt with the intersection of mental health and housing needs. Previous experience ended when a client exited the clinic or office. Seeing firsthand the hurdles individuals struggling with persistent mental illness face to find success in their community and homes was transformative. CHS dedicates itself to creating communities where any individual can find positive outcomes, and my wonderful experience reflects their positivity and passion.” William said, “As a health professional and a public health student relatively new to the area, I wanted to understand underserved populations in Pittsburgh. The experience with Bridging the Gaps and Community Human Services was a great opportunity to witness how both organic disease and negative social determinants can push individuals and families to the margins of our society, and at an increased risk for experiencing adverse health outcomes and situations like homelessness as a consequence. All of the residents of these programs and the staff members at CHS are excellent examples of openness, empathy and resilience.”

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Resource Guide for Housing Advocates and Clients

Student Interns:
Jessica Hessler, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work/Graduate School of Public Health
Alexandria Taylor, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

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

Community Preceptor:
Sharon Higginbothan, PhD, COO, Bethlehem Haven

The Community Site:
Bethlehem Haven is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing a number of services, including emergency shelter; rapid rehousing; permanent supportive housing; medical, dental, obstetric and mental health services; and employment services to women in the Pittsburgh area. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Disabilities Conditions; Injury and Violence Prevention; Mental Health; Oral Health; Substance Abuse

The Project:
Bethlehem Haven is moving from a transitional housing model to a Housing First model, which includes rapid rehousing, allowing homeless women to be housed in the community of their choice within 30 days. With the guidance of Dr. Higginbothan, the Bridging the Gaps student interns determined that a master resource database would be the most effective project, delivering a comprehensive tool that could be accessed and used by all staff on-site and remotely. They built the resource database as a shareable, mobile-friendly and searchable spreadsheet, divided into geographic location with additional subcategories by service type. To complement the database, the interns created an interactive map, which is also desktop- and mobile-friendly, to allow housing advocates to locate resources near a client’s new housing location. After speaking with clients, the students also created a small welcome guide with tips and general resources to ease clients’ transition to independent living and empower them in their new homes.

Personal Statements:
Jessica said, “This summer with Bethlehem Haven has been an incredible opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people and delve deeper into issues facing people without stable housing. As a social work and public health graduate student, I am always looking for ways to understand how policies and services impact the communities they’re designed to serve. Going forward in my program and career, I hope to take everything I’ve learned from the wonderful staff and amazing women of Bethlehem Haven and improve how we empower our communities to live their best lives.” Alexandria said, “I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a Bridging the Gaps intern at Bethlehem Haven for the summer. This experience has had an impact on my professional and personal development in more ways than I ever expected. During my time here, I have gained a better understanding of the barriers underserved patients must overcome when trying to access resources such as housing, employment and food. Also, Bridging the Gaps has taught me how to be an effective advocate and socially responsible citizen. More important, my heart has forever been touched by the strong, brave women of Bethlehem Haven who have endured so much in life.”

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Improving the Nutrition of Pregnant Women and Children Aged 0 to 3

Student Interns:
Funto Babalola, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Elizabeth Baca, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor:
Tracy Soska, PhD, MSW, LSW, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

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

The Community Site:
COTRAIC Early Head Start families live at or below the poverty line and have children that range from newborn to 3 years of age. The mission of COTRAIC is to promote the socioeconomic development of the Native American community and others who experience the same type of socioeconomic difficulties in the Greater Pittsburgh metropolitan area. Services include child development, health and mental health services, nutrition, family support, disabilities support, community partnerships and care 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 childcare 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):
Access to Health Care; Educational Advancement/Literacy; Environmental Health; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns got to know various families and children in home and childcare settings. The interns found a need for more information on nutrition and healthy eating, so they developed a children’s book for families to read together that depicted healthy eating information. They also created an informational handbook for the home visitors to use to talk to families about healthy eating for pregnant women, infants and toddlers. At the last socialization, interns created a table on healthy eating, including samples of healthy foods and recipes that are easy and cheap to make. They also compiled information on oral health to share with the families.

Personal Statements:
Funto said, “Bridging the Gaps has opened my eyes to various communities in Pittsburgh and social issues that affect the lives of families throughout the United States. My time with Early Head Start has taught me about the difference that can be made through supporting and educating parents through their child’s development, and I have seen the joy that can be found in gradual progress. I am certain that the information that I learned and the experiences that I had this summer will positively influence my future practice as a pharmacist.” Elizabeth said, “Working with Early Head Start has given me a whole new perspective of health inequities that I had not seen in nursing school. In nursing school you see a sick child and it is easy to make judgments about the family and how the child got there. Working with families in Early Head Start has opened my eyes to how there are so many ways to be a good and caring parent. I will carry with me the lessons I learned here from staff and families for the rest of my nursing career.”

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Stand Up. Speak Up.

Student Interns:
Jamie Piotrowski, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
S. Michelle Watson, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

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

Community Preceptor:
Tamera Stafford, Gwen’s Girls

The Community Site:
Gwen’s Girls was founded in 2002 by former Pittsburgh Police Commander Gwendolyn J. Elliott. Ms. Elliott had 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, focuses on providing structured time for participants to focus on building life skills, hobbies, interests and general summer fun. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness; Preparedness; Responsible Sexual Behavior

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns were assigned to work with girls aged 8 to 11. Student interns assisted in facilitating academic, physical, socioemotional development and cultural enrichment activities. After doing a program needs assessment, the interns and staff determined the need for bullying prevention and conflict resolution skills. The interns created an eight-week curriculum to address self-care, self-esteem, and healthy personal and online relationships. Activities include identifying terms, discussion, journaling and artistic expression.

Personal Statements:
Jamie said, “It is easy to get swept up in local politics and social issues while living in the city of Pittsburgh, making us forget that smaller cities like Clairton exist all around the globe. BTG reminds us that all communities have similar needs but are often neglected if they can’t put themselves in the spotlight or ‘prove’ their worth. Cities like Clairton serve as a reminder for us to be inclusive in our outreach and mindful in our policy practices. All communities have worth; we just need to look harder.” Michelle said, “Throughout my career as a student I have learned so much about child development and how one’s environment can influence future outcomes. Working with young black girls at Gwen’s Girls in Clairton has put everything I’ve learned into perspective. Through this experience I have gained knowledge on how to identify issues within a community and use positive action to help find solutions. I understand how high rates of poverty among black girls silence their voices and diminishe their success. Working with Gwen’s Girls has allowed me the opportunity to uplift a community and encourage them to respect themselves and respect others.”

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Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Student Interns:
Stefanie Marsh, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Todd McLaughlin, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

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

Community Preceptors:
JoAnn English
, Program Manager, Sojourner MOMS
Karen Upsher, MSW, Mobile Addiction Specialist, Sojourner MOMS

The Community Site:
Sojourner House and Sojourner House MOMS (Mentoring, Opportunity, Motivation, Spirituality) provide compassionate, faith-based residential recovery services to mothers and children in the Pittsburgh area. Sojourner House helps addicted mothers learn to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and chemical abuse while rebuilding damaged relationships with their children. Sojourner House believes that women can shatter the chains of addiction and hopelessness when surrounded by what means most to them: their children. Project areas of interest include developing a curriculum on mental health and substance abuse. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Preparedness; Substance Abuse

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed a basic psychoeducational curriculum (PowerPoint presentations and a binder with the same material) to be used by staff with residents. The curriculum stresses the importance of mental health care for individuals with drug and alcohol substance use disorders. In addition to developing the curriculum, the interns’ daily responsibilities included performing client intake interviews, assisting with administrative tasks for residents to stay in the housing program, and attending community and relapse meetings.

Personal Statements:
Stefanie said, “My experience with Sojourner MOMS and BTG has allowed me to hone my therapeutic skills within the drug and alcohol community. These skills are critical as a future social worker due to the current state of the drug epidemic; this experience has been beneficial to both me and the community. I now see the struggles people with addiction go through on a daily basis.” Todd said, “My experience with BTG has given me an up-close look at the struggles residents have as they live with mental health issues and addiction. As a medical student who wants to work in a community clinic, the combination of my site work and the reflection sessions have helped me to better understand underserved populations and the challenges that they face. This experience has served to further confirm my desires to work with populations that are marginalized.”

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Adulting 101 at the Braddock Youth Project

Student Interns:
Alexander Snyder, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Danielle Tyler, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor:
Shannon E. Connor, PharmD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

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. To help the youth advance toward positive life outcomes, BYP has both a school-year program and a summer program that allow youth to foster work skills through meaningful, sustainable community development projects generated and maintained by the youth themselves. Participants choose one of four teams: Media, Mentoring, Gardening or Ceramics. KEYS AmeriCorps members serve summer terms as team leaders and act as valuable resources for the youth in project development. The learn-and-earn model seeks to empower the youth to use their own creativity to make positive change 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 helped the KEYS AmeriCorps members interview the youth for the BYP summer employment program. During the interview process, the interns identified the need for improvement in the youths’ interview skills and performance. To address this, the interns created a PowerPoint presentation that incorporated basic life skills that are not taught in high school, such as résumé writing, interview skills, money management, time management and oral hygiene. The interns then presented this information to each BYP team using a discussion-based model. To assess the success of the presentations, the youth were given a survey both before and after to judge what they had learned. The hope is that the youth will use these new skills to improve their future employment opportunities and to better themselves.

Personal Statements:
Alex said, “In pharmacy, it is very easy to think of patients as number of scripts to fill or number of medications they are on. In other words, it is too easy to forget that the patient is a person with their own story to tell. The biggest impact BTG will have on me is a greater understanding that each patient I will serve in the future is a unique individual with their own story and own unique experiences. The Braddock Youth Project opened my eyes to a group of people who care about their neighbors, their community and the youth that are the future of that community. If I can just take some of the empathy these people show every day with me, I believe it will make me a much better pharmacist in the future. I enjoy working with the youth every day and hope I have had as much of a positive influence on them as they have had on me. They have taught me the importance of working hard, making the best of any situation, and how optimism and belief in yourself can take you a lot of places.” Danielle said, “As a nursing student, we focus our attention on identifying and treating acute and chronic diseases in a hospital setting. Little is discussed about the nursing role in community and public health. Spending the summer interacting with and teaching impressionable high school children from the Braddock area has broken my misconceptions of a community different from my own. I learned as much, or perhaps more, from the youth as they learned from me. This experience has greatly expanded my horizons and has allowed me to take another step forward towards my goal of becoming an even better future nurse. Ultimately, I will undoubtedly carry my BTG experience with me throughout my nursing career and will strive to continue to learn from those different than myself.”

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Resource Guide for the Community of Hazelwood

Student Interns:
Jeff Mortenson, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Sam Wendel, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

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

Community Preceptor:
Joy Cannon, Program Coordinator, 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 through 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 believe that everything is about people. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Environmental Health; Health Communication; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns were assigned to work at Center of Life’s Voices Summer Camp. The day camp provides kindergarteners through high school students the opportunity for academic and athletic activities throughout the summer. The interns worked with the other tutors to provide the youth with enriching experiences over the six-week camp. After conversations with community members and COL staff, the interns discovered that community awareness of available resources could be improved. To help the youth continue their development outside of camp, the interns created a booklet containing neighborhood and Pittsburgh-specific resources for the campers and their families.

Personal Statements:
Jeff said, “The best thing about Bridging the Gaps was the opportunity for hands-on work in a setting that I may never have the chance to work in again. I’m particularly grateful for the chance to get to know these kids and understand the reality of their lives, which will be particularly helpful context as I work with them in more artificial, professional settings in the coming years.” Sam said, “The Bridging the Gaps experience helped me to implement and better understand classroom theories, especially those relating to child development. Different practice models have different underlying assumptions, and it was valuable to see how those theories compare to real-world situations. On a personal level, it was meaningful to develop relationships with the campers and watch them grow throughout the summer.”

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