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Lehigh Valley Projects - 2021

Alliance Hall Summer Recreation Program 


Building Alliances With Students (click to view Poster)


Student Interns: 
Emily Perruso, Marywood University School of Social Work 

Taylor Verrekia, Moravian University, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor: 

Mary Ellen Miller, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC, DeSales University

Community Preceptor:

Tina Amato, MS, LDN, RD, Physical Activity and Nutrition, Alliance Hall


Community Site:

Brigadier General Hays Mae Elementary School is one of 15 elementary schools in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The richness of diversity in the Allentown School District (ASD) is strengthened by the district’s central role in educating students for America's future through academic excellence and celebrating the culturally responsive, athletic and artistic range of talent in the schools. ASD students originate from 51 countries and speak 26 languages. Approximately 90% of families are considered low-Income and receive either free or reduced-price lunches. ASD is the third largest urban school system out of 500 districts in the Commonwealth and serves a community with a poverty rate of 38.64% of the city's population. (2013 Census).



The Bridging the Gaps student interns educated campers on oral health by reading a book and demonstrating proper toothbrushing and flossing. They made a flyer about proper health hygiene, and each intern made a newsletter about the summer camp program. Using a role-modelling technique, they also helped teach the campers how to have better relationships with their peers. The interns’ additional focus included performing a community assessment and conducting a storytelling project with a staff member.


Intern Statements:  

Emily Perruso: “This experience provided me with more networking opportunities that I will definitely use in the future. I was able to gain some new skills to use, since I am going for a master's degree in social work as well as back to the classroom for the students I teach. It really opened my eyes to how much social injustice and inequality is out in the world. I have learned to be more open-minded during this wonderful experience.” 


Taylor Verrekia: “This experience overall will be something valuable that I will use for the rest of my life. It showed the inequalities and social injustice, [which] helped me grow as well as [will] help me become a better nurse. This experience was something that I could not learn from the books, but something that had to be experienced to gain the knowledge. I can take a more holistic approach to help better understand my patients, given that I have seen people from multiple backgrounds.”


Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley


Bringing Health Equity to Promise Neighborhoods (click to view Poster)


Student Interns: 
Christelle Joseph, DeSales University, Division of Nursing

Julia Maruscak, DeSales University, Medical Studies 

Kylie Ridley, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine

Roberto Rosario, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine


Academic Preceptor: 
Mary Ellen Miller, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC, DeSales University

Community Preceptors:  

Hasshan Batts, DHSc, MSW, Director, Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley

Jose Rivera, AA, Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley

Pas Simpson, BA, Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley

Community Site:
Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley (PNLV) is a Black-led, anti-racist, liberation-based grassroots community organization in Allentown, Pennsylvania, staffed by neighborhood residents. PNLV comprises a unique network whose role is to promote consistent public health messaging delivered by trusted community messengers. PNLV’s mission is to foster cooperation among residents within the greater Lehigh Valley area to create safe, healthy, vibrant, inclusive neighborhoods, where children succeed in school and where adults and families want to live
and thrive.


The Bridging the Gaps student interns partook in a variety of educational and service projects over the course of the summer. To kickstart their time at PNLV, the interns completed a community assessment to provide information to staff about demographics, resources and needs within the community. They created health education and resource flyers for the community and staff of PNLV and canvased local neighborhoods to promote STEM and dance summer camps for the youth. The interns also participated in a community march to support equitable funding for schools in Pennsylvania. This direct action helped increase visibility of the school equal funding initiative for Allentown residents and demonstrated support to Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Browne’s office to demand change. Interns networked with local nonprofits and institutions to learn about resources in the community and cultivated vegetables at PNLV farm, Promise Land, to improve Allentown residents’ access to fresh, healthy produce. Interns interacted with a local street medicine team and discussed ways to reduce the number of recurring hospital visits by providing outpatient preventive care, and they learned about modifiable health disparities. Interns reflected upon how they could address community inequalities in their future practice. Lastly, the interns assisted PNLV staff in planning initiatives to improve public health and address health disparities for a future community health fair.


Intern Statements:  


Christelle Joseph: “I feel that I have been exposed to a whole new part of myself by building relationships with people I would have probably only met in a clinical setting. Fully immersing myself into the community environment has helped me understand the demographic that makes up Allentown." 


Julia Maruscak: “My time at PNLV has transformed my career goals, as I have shifted from an individualistic view of healthcare to a community-based view of healthcare. I have learned that to better understand a patient, or just a person in general, one must explore the community from which they come. The community at PNLV is grounded in like-minded goals, emotional connection and passionate advocacy. I hope to carry these qualities of PNLV throughout my career.” 


Kylie Ridley: “Becoming a Bridging the Gaps Intern was the best decision I could have made with my time this summer. Upon leaving the internship, I feel a greater sense of connection within my community, and I now have knowledge of the many different resources that exist within Allentown for people that are struggling. I additionally have acquired a more well-rounded understanding of the factors that lead to health disparities, homelessness, substance abuse disorder and gun violence within our populations. I am certain that this experience will greatly impact my practice in the healthcare field.” 


Roberto Rosario: “I believe that my most important experiences at PLVN occured through organic discussions with the employees of the organization. I was humbled by these conversations as they afforded a chance to learn from people. Through community action, interactive dialogues, comment and didactic education, my BTG involvement became a formative experience that served to deepen my commitment towards improving population health and building better lives for people.”

Alliance Hall Summer Recreation
Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley
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