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Center of Life 

 

Hydroponics: Nutrition and Sustainability in a Food Desert (click to view poster)

Student Intern:  

Prashanti Limbu, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

 

Academic Preceptor:  

Thuy Bui, MD, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

 

Community Preceptor: 

Sarah Crawshaw, MEd, Education Programs Manager, Center of Life

 

Community Site: 

Center of Life (COL) strives to support and empower the people of Hazelwood and surrounding communities. COL provides opportunities, resources, and support for children, youth, and adults. The programs in place at COL focus on providing academic and recreational out-of-school opportunities, music education, and varying support for community adults. The programs specifically for children include Fusion (after-school tutoring), Crossover (after-school physical education), and Camp Hazelwood (recreational and educational experiences over the summer). Other programs in place for families and the whole community include the Family and Community Engagement division and the Social Justice Resource Center.

 

Project:

The Bridging the Gaps student intern at COL initially worked with the community preceptor to understand the Camp Hazelwood population. The academic and community preceptors worked with the intern to brainstorm ideas for a lesson plan about hydroponics, “Hydroponics: Nutrition and Sustainability in a Food Desert,” which the intern taught to campers. The lesson plan included an activity in which the children had the opportunity to grow celery hydroponically and use the celery stalk to make “ants on a log” (celery stuffed with peanut butter and raisins). Campers also received a flyer with information on how to grow more vegetables hydroponically at home, and the site retained the lesson plan for future use.

Intern Reflections: 

Prashanti Limbu: “I got to learn that there is also room for growth. COL gave me the opportunity to learn to be very resourceful with work with limited resources like time. The welcoming environment of COL ensured to value my opinions and give constructive feedback when necessary.”

 

 

Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start

 

What You Need to Know About Partnering With COTRAIC (click to view poster)

Student Interns:  

Emma Ford, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Darby Robinson, University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

 

Academic Preceptor:  

Cynthia Salter, PhD, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

 

Community Preceptors: 

Deborah Gallagher, MEd, EHS Director, COTRAIC

Margot Russell, LPC, Compliance/Professional Development Coordinator, COTRAIC

Community Site: 

The Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start (EHS) is a federally funded program that provides free or low-cost childcare to families who live at or below the poverty line with children from birth to age 3. COTRAIC offer a variety of services in both the classroom and home to promote the healthy development of infants and toddlers. Home-based options include home visits, which provide weekly meetings between families and staff for resources and recommendations. Center-based options include COTRAIC-operated classrooms, partnered classrooms (such as Brightside and family homes), and monthly visits. COTRAIC EHS serves neighborhoods all over Pittsburgh and has recently expanded into Philadelphia. This site is in Hazelwood on Second Avenue, in the basement of a Carnegie library. Inside, there is a large meeting room, a kitchen, and the Early Head Start director’s office.

 

Project:

The Bridging the Gaps student interns created a presentation to help the liaisons provide information to new and current childcare partners. The PowerPoint presentation includes speaker notes so that anyone can give the presentation with ease. Topics include whom partners will be working with, ratios and class size, child attendance, teacher requirements, health and safety screenings, financial responsibilities, and other assessments between teachers and children. The presentation also includes other materials, such as a key takeaway sheet and a note-taking template, to help childcare directors better retain information and put it into practice.

 

Intern Reflections: 

Emma Ford: “I learned that within the nonprofit community, there are many different organizations that work together and help each other out to ensure that the people they are serving are receiving the best care possible.”

 

Darby Robinson: “I learned that home visiting has so many positive impacts on a family’s life. Whether it is socializing for the family or them learning about activities and resources.”

 

Dragon's Den

 

Self-Care Guide (click to view poster)

Student Interns:  

Shruti Bhansali, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Olivia Lohman, University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

 

Academic Preceptor:  

Sharon Connor, PharmD, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy

 

Community Preceptor: 

Ives Letzo, BA, Program Coordinator, Dragon’s Den

 

Community Site: 

Homestead’s historic St. Mary Magdalene Church now holds Dragon’s Den, a bold 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing transformative learning environments using a state-of-the-art, two-level therapeutic and educational challenge course, including a 160-foot zipline and a 20-foot climbing wall. Our course is designed to engage youth of diverse backgrounds and abilities to overcome challenges in themselves, their communities, and the world.

 

Project:

The Bridging the Gaps student interns served as supporting camp counselors. The interns’ project was a video guide for future summer camp counselors containing activities for the attendees centered around self-care. The guide includes multiple activities that can be done with the children, information about the importance of self-care for children and adults, and information regarding suicidal behaviors. The interns also created additional projects including pamphlets for the parents with information about each week of camp, calling parents to ask about the barriers their children face surrounding attendance at the after-school program, and a guide for future interns about what to expect at Dragon’s Den.

 

Intern Reflections: 

Shruti Bhansali: “This is my first time working in a space where there are children who come from affluent backgrounds and children who live in poverty. Then there are children with special needs. It is a mixed group of fun-loving kids, and being with them reminded me of what it means to be a child. Just being out in the park with them or seeing them participate in activities was a message for me to stop being an adult who is sometimes disappointed and to feel excited about the small things in life. Moreover, for the first time in my life, I truly realized the trauma children can undergo because of the adversities they experience growing up. It made me want to do much more than this. Through this internship I learned some ways to work with children with special needs and navigate emotional dysregulation in children in general.”

 

Olivia Lohman: “Working at Dragon’s Den this summer taught me many lessons about the world we live in and what it means to truly support a child. Before working with Dragon’s Den, I was not around children often. I am the youngest of my family, and I often thought to myself, ‘What do you even talk about with a kid? Are they going to be open to interacting with a stranger that is not from their background?’ I was a bit apprehensive at the start, but every week my heart grew for these kids more and more. I learned not only how to talk with kids, but how to hold space for them to be vulnerable, how to teach them about tools needed to work through their emotions, and simply how to support a child who is living with so much trauma. They truly just want someone to hear them and be there for them. The opportunity to be that support for children is something that I will never forget, and it not only felt fulfilling, but it also connected me to my own inner child and her unresolved hurt. This experience further developed my empathy, patience, and understanding of other people and their potential circumstances. You truly never know what someone else is going through.”

Peoples Oakland

 

Highway to Health (click to view poster)

Student Interns:  

Archisha Ghosh, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Carla Medina-Gil, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy

 

Academic Preceptor:  

Nina Markovic, BSDH, MS, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Dentistry

 

Community Preceptor: 

Allison Hayes, LCSW, Associate Director, Peoples Oakland

 

Community Site: 

Peoples Oakland strives to be a premier recovery and wellness center that serves Allegheny County adults with severe and persistent mental illness and co-occurring disorders. All Peoples Oakland services and activities have a philosophy of recovery based on real-life experiences nurtured by peer support, hope, self-help, and collaborative relationships with professionals and are committed to holistic, comprehensive, member-driven recovery.

 

Project:

The Bridging the Gaps student interns were tasked with developing a health challenge to promote healthier habits and lifestyles for Peoples Oakland members. The members at Peoples Oakland are in recovery, have intellectual disabilities or mental illness, or struggle with a combination of issues and have difficulty with the day-to-day upkeep of their physical health. A health challenge motivates members to stay healthy and keep clean. The challenge the interns developed consisted of a daily scoresheet where members could check off health activities they did every day and earn points. These activities included brushing their teeth, drinking water, using the fitness room, etc. Members received prizes such as gift cards and social outings based on points earned. The final product included a score sheet and a leaderboard poster.

 

Intern Reflections: 

Archisha Ghosh: “Peoples Oakland gave me a change of perspective. I have met many people and listened to many stories. I have learned that members are more than their symptoms; each member has strengths, aspirations, and goals. Peoples Oakland fosters an environment of empowerment —empowering not only its members but also its staff and interns. I came out of this internship with a new understanding of needs, concerns, progress, empathy, trust, and communication. In short, the relationships I have made here will stay with me for a lifetime.”

 

Carla Medina-Gil: “My time at Peoples Oakland will always be special to me because I entered not expecting much but I am leaving this experience having learned so many things and with new friends. From the members, I learned what everyday life with mental illness could look like but also realized they are so much more than just a diagnosis. Their eagerness to support each other and capability for compassion and generosity has been so different compared to other centers or rehabilitation places where I have worked. It truly is a family, and I am so glad that I got to experience that family for however short a period it was.”

Sojourner House MOMS

 

SOHO Family Cookbook (click to view poster)

Student Interns:  

Savannah Ballard, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Jingyi (Jenny) Xiong, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

 

Academic Preceptor:  

Patricia Documet, MD, DrPH, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

 

Community Preceptor: 

Karen Upsher-Williams, MSW, Family Housing Manager, Sojourner House, Sojourner House MOMS, East Liberty

 

Community Site: 

Sojourner House programs provide faith-based, compassionate recovery services that encourage self­sufficiency. This is the only recovery-focused organization that allows children to stay with their mothers during treatment. Sojourner House offers three levels of care: residential rehabilitation treatment, transitional housing with support services for families in recovery, and permanent housing coordinated through Allegheny Link.

 

Project:

The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed a low-cost family cookbook that includes a variety of different recipes for every meal of the day. Recipes are diverse, easy to make, and budget friendly. Through the many group sessions and discussions, the interns discovered that many families do not cook their own meals and eat many processed foods. In addition to the cookbook, the interns led groups discussing the mental health benefits of cooking, nutritional benefits of different foods, family bonding, meal prep, and budgeting. In addition, the interns led the clients in a cooking demonstration, preparing a healthy snack for both parents and children and creating a space for community and creativity.

 

Intern Reflections: 

Savannah Ballard: “This process has really opened my eyes to the realities of working towards recovery with the women at Sojourner House and the collaborative services that are required to create space for achieving their personal goals. One of the most important aspects of this process is honesty — honesty with yourself and others. I’ve recognized the importance of reflection and listening to the members of your community to provide necessary resources and care for those around you. I will be able to carry the skills that I’ve learned here with me as I continue in my field.”

 

Jenny Xiong: “This is a precious opportunity for me to observe different cultures and truly immerse myself in getting to know different people from different backgrounds. I see resilience, honesty, and assertion from the women I worked with, through their recovery path. Serving the disadvantaged area by joining the program really helped me open my mind and put thoughts to better deliver healthcare to people in need.”

Voices Against Violence

Building Blocks: Building Up Staff Resilience and Well-Being at Voices Against Violence (click to view poster)

 

Student Interns:  

Mary Ross, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Mengjun Wang, University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

 

Academic Preceptor:  

Jamie Zelazny, PhD, MPH, RN, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

 

Community Preceptor: 

Emmanuela Abraham, Voices Against Violence Richard Carrington Sr., Voices Against Violence

 

Community Site: 

Voices Against Violence (VAV) was founded in 1995 by Richard Carrington Sr. in response to a need for holistic community-based programming that served youth involved with gangs, drugs, and guns in the South Pittsburgh area. The overarching goal of the organization is to reduce interpersonal conflicts and empower youth through activities and education focused on diversion and prevention. This organization also serves the Beltzhoover community and surrounding neighborhoods with anti-violence and restorative justice programs, street violence intervention, conflict mediation and resolution, school-based retention programs, facilitated parent groups, and managed summer employment programs.

 

Project:

The Bridging the Gaps student interns at VAV created two different workshops, a Tai Chi training and a life-skills training, to address issues of staff burnout and professionalism raised by the community mentors. The Tai Chi course for senior staff was taught twice a week for 15 minutes and followed traditional Tai Chi methods. The life-skills course was created to lead away from paths of interpersonal violence and incarceration and provide education and self-advocacy skills to youth junior counselors. The interns created manuals for both courses for the community site to use to continue the workshops in the future. In addition to the workshops, BTG interns also created and implemented mindfulness and self-care programming for all age groups at the VAV summer camp.

 

Intern Reflections: 

Mary Ross: “I applied to Bridging the Gaps because I wanted to experience and learn about a Pittsburgh community that was different from where I was living and have a hands-on experience helping them. My time at VAV has been very meaningful, and it really challenged my perceptions of myself and my abilities. Voices Against Violence allowed me to gain a better understanding of how important and impactful early intervention efforts can be and see the effects of the social determinants of health in action. It was exciting to have the chance to design my own workshop and make activities for different groups. The positive relationships we built with the staff and children really made the experience worthwhile and enjoyable.”

 

Mengjun Wang: “In these two months of experience, I have come to realize the importance of educational resources. Through interacting with children, I have gained a deep understanding of the significance of patience and respect. Collaborating with Mary has been gratifying, as we worked together to bring more assistance and change to VAV. I believe I have achieved the initial purpose of applying to be a BTG [intern], which is to gain a deeper understanding of American culture and communities.”

Youth Enrichment Services (YES)

 

Youth Apprenticeship Course (click to view poster)

Student Interns:  

Sarah Nackman, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Rosemary (Rose) Sabatino, University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

 

Academic Preceptor:  

Betty Braxter, PhD, CNM, RN, FAAN, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

 

Community Preceptor: 

Deanna Sinex, PhD, Director of Research and Program Strategy, Youth Enrichment Services

 

Community Site: 

Youth Enrichment Services (YES) is a nonprofit in East Liberty that specializes in mentorship, enrichment, and the education of economically and socially at-risk youth aged 13 to 18 around Pittsburgh. YES prides itself in empowering students to be their own best resource, providing them with the tools they will need to be successful and confident leaders in their schools, homes, and communities.

 

Project:

The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked with the Summer Scholars (who were 14 or 15 years old), enrolled in the Summer Learn and Earn program, and beginning their freshman year of high school in the fall — a pivotal time in their lives. The primary project consisted of the creation and implementation of two career readiness courses, known as apprenticeships. The apprenticeship courses supported the academic preparation and career readiness program components while fostering the students’ interests. By the end of the apprenticeships, the kids had completed their respective final projects, a food blog, or a musical showcase. The secondary project provided the YES administration with suggestions and resources to build capacity regarding emergency and first aid protocol and preparedness.

 

Intern Reflections: 

Sarah Nackman: “I am humbled and privileged to have had this opportunity to listen and learn from the voices of our future. Even in the face of adversity, I witnessed the resolve and tenacity of the students who aspire to get that ‘YES.’ I will forever value the commitment and resiliency of YES and the Pittsburgh community. I am passionate about continuing my work in the public health space, and my time at YES has proven to be an invaluable experience that exposed me to the inner workings of nonprofits and the real people and stories of Pittsburgh.”

 

Rose Sabatino: “I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work with YES and discover firsthand what they do for the Pittsburgh youth. I have come out of this internship with a wealth of knowledge that I will apply not only in my career but also in life. I am beyond thankful for my mentors, peers, and YES students that taught me countless lessons that will follow me long into the future.”

Center of Life
Voices Against Violence
COTRAIC
Sojourner
YES
Dragon's Den
Peoples Oakland

University OF PITTSBURGH

2023 Summaries

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