Pittsburgh Projects - 2019

 

Summer Curriculum for Food, Activities and Fun!

Student Intern:
Evelyn Bigini, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

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

Community Preceptors: 
Jerry Ann Allen, MPM, BSN, RN, President/CEO of Allen Place Community Services, Inc.
Denise Barron, BS, CEO/Director of The Growing Patch Learning Center
Chris West, Child Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

Community Site: 
Allen Place Community Services, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides health programs to residents on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Allen Place supports seniors, children and young adults with disabilities and also provides faith-based programs. The focus is on the community, with activities ranging from building computer skills and CPR classes to support groups and exercise instruction. View Community Partner Web Site

The Growing Patch Learning Center is an organization located in Allen Place Community Services, Inc. Daycare programs are available for children from 6 weeks old to preschool age. After-school and camp programs are available for children aged 5 to 13, as well. The Growing Patch listens to the needs of individual children, their families and the community as a whole. The center ensures that children are ready for kindergarten upon graduation from preschool.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank provides food assistance throughout an 11-county service area in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including through the Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded and state-administered program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Summer Food Service Program provides free summer meals and snacks to children at Allen Place who are 18 years old and younger.

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020): 
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Environmental Health; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness.

Project: 
Throughout the summer, the intern worked with a group of 6- to 10-year-olds. The intern planned and carried out activities relating to nutrition and physical activity that included art, puzzles, reading and writing, music, science, dance, character development, cooking skills, and gardening. The project was a curriculum binder documenting these activities. It included copies of the activities, the intern's feedback and feedback from the children. The final event for the summer was a “Garden to Chef” demonstration in which the children cooked, danced and played the drums for their parents and other supporters.

Intern Statement: 
Evelyn Bigini: “Everything is connected. In order to improve one variable, we must see the bigger picture. We can work on one aspect of health, like nutrition, but there are likely countless other challenges like housing and government laws and policies that we can’t overlook. Above all, I’m so grateful to have worked with my group of children. I learned from their inspiration and compassion, and this program has made the most definitive impact on my education and future goals. Thank you.”

Bethlehem Haven to Discharge and Beyond

Student Interns:
Jordan Cobb, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Heather Messa, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Academic Preceptor:
Sharon Connor, PharmD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

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

Community Site: 
Bethlehem Haven is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide a continuum of care for homeless women that leads toward self-sufficiency. To achieve this mission, Bethlehem Haven offers several housing programs, including an emergency shelter, medical respite, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing and Safe At Home. Their non-housing programs include a mental health and wellness clinic, the Uptown Legal Clinic and a drop-in center that provides meals and supportive services to program recipients. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020): 
Access to Healthcare; Mental Health; Preparedness; Oral Health; Tobacco Use.

Project: 
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Bethlehem Haven focused on reducing recidivism in both the emergency shelter and medical respite programs. The student interns developed two projects to target this ongoing challenge: a comprehensive community map and a discharge binder. The community map provides a visual aid of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and pinpoints the resources within each particular neighborhood. Titled “The Path to Discharge and Beyond,” the community map will be hung in the emergency shelter for clients to reference during their stay at Bethlehem Haven, and as their path approaches discharge, clients will be equipped with a discharge binder. These binders are complete with a resource guide that outlines numerous financial assistance resources, how to obtain misplaced legal identification documents, community health centers, etc. and also include a sheet protector to help clients carry their legal identification documents more securely, as those documents are often required to redeem services. The combination of the two projects provides a continuum of support and heightened autonomy in the housing process.

Intern Statements: 
Jordan Cobb: “As a nursing student, I’ve felt like my connection to the Pittsburgh community has come mostly from interacting with the healthcare system in the city in the acute form. Having the opportunity to work with the clients at Bethlehem Haven has shown me a different meaning to the term ‘recovery.’ Often, we think of recovery in a linear framework, but that formatting vastly misrepresents the struggles of substance use, mental health and economic instability that follow many of our clients. I am grateful to have spent the time learning more about the community of Pittsburgh and the housing crisis that it is experiencing as well as learning how to become an advocate for the members of our community at Bethlehem Haven. Our clients need us to believe in them, and their recovery, in order for them to move passionately forward with the changes their lives require.”

Heather Messa: “‘Homeless’ is an umbrella term that typically refers to an undesirable outcome, however for many individuals, homelessness is not an outcome, but rather a transition. During my time at Bethlehem Haven, I have discovered that one’s willingness to listen, empathize and assist goes a much farther way than direct service delivery. Through providing social and emotional support, individuals can be empowered to work towards housing and employment goals to alter their outcomes. While at Bethlehem Haven, I worked to highlight small victories of clients, which helped me build a strong rapport, and create a safe space to ask for assistance or relay a concern when needed.”

 

The Hazelwood Resource Guide: A Collection of Local Services and Health Recommendations

Student Interns:
Lauren Fogelman, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health
Chae Hee Lim, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine    

Academic Preceptor:
Nina Markovic, BSDH, MS, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine

Community Preceptor: 
Joy Cannon, BA, Director of Programming, Center of Life

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 aims to help the 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 “everything is about people.” View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020): 
Health Communication; Immunization; Injury and Violence Prevention; Mental Health; Responsible Sexual Behavior.

Project: 
The student interns had the opportunity to interact with staff and students at Center of Life’s Camp Hazelwood as well as with members of the community at various local events. Their project addressed community health with the understanding that it is affected by numerous factors, such as physical and mental health, access to education, public safety services and health literacy. With this in mind, the interns developed a comprehensive online community resource guide that aims to: 1) connect the people of Hazelwood with the resources that are currently available in the area by providing information on healthcare, crisis hotlines, government subsidized childcare, schools and local services and 2) provide recommendations and guidelines on health topics such as immunization, violence and suicide prevention, conflict resolution and coping with grief. The resource guide was created online in order to reach a broader audience and to make it modifiable so it can be adapted to changes or updates that occur in the community.

Intern Statements:
Lauren Fogelman: “It is really important to make sure the community is wanting whatever intervention you want to put in place. If you listen to them, the reception for the project is a lot better. I think one real downside to this program is that it is so short. It takes time to gain trust, especially from adults. I think that working with a community organization helps you make a connection but going to outside events and meetings is really important to start to be accepted by the community.”

Chae Hee Lim: “It is so easy to focus on my area of study and forget to learn about anything else that is going on in people’s lives unless I put myself out there. Meeting people of Hazelwood and listening to some of the life stories children went through, I often feel powerless — that I would never be able to truly understand and empathize with their traumas. At the same time, I am motivated to try even harder.”

 

Early Head Start — Child Care Safety Trainings and Practices

Student Interns:
Sarah Bigelow, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health
Kathleen Weiser, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor:
Todd M. Bear, PhD, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences

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

Community Site: 
COTRAIC Early Head Start (EHS) serves families with children from birth to 3 years old, who are living at or below the poverty line. The mission 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.” EHS services address child development, health services, mental health, nutrition, family support, disabilities, community partnerships and pregnancy. EHS 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 EHS. View Community Partner Web Site

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

Project: 
The Bridging the Gaps student interns spent time in COTRAIC’s EHS home visiting programs and visiting COTRAIC’s childcare classrooms and childcare partner sites. Based on staff feedback, and through their own experiences during childcare visits, the interns saw a need to develop clear, concise staff training regarding child safety, not only to comply with EHS regulations, but also to keep the children safe and support their development. The interns developed PowerPoint presentations around active supervision, sun safety, safe sleep, medication safety, allergies, shaken baby syndrome and child maltreatment, which would be delivered at COTRAIC’s staff in-service in early September. They also developed corresponding handouts summarizing the information in these PowerPoints for COTRAIC’s childcare liaisons to help reinforce these safety practices throughout the year. 

Intern Statements:
Sarah Bigelow: “Serving with COTRAIC's EHS program this summer helped me see firsthand how issues of structural power — such as poverty, racism and sexism — are enacted from birth. While this was at times overwhelming to witness, I was also lifted up by the resilience of the little ones we got to interact with daily and all those involved in caring for them, particularly those who welcomed us into their homes with open arms. As I move into public health practice, I hope to incorporate an understanding of social justice-oriented public health that centers on cross-generational and cross-disciplinary knowledge and experiences.”

Kathleen Weiser: “Through COTRAIC's EHS program, I had the opportunity to go out into my community and gain knowledge and experience about the importance of community health in terms of overall population health and wellness. As a nursing student, I have only seen the hospital side of healthcare. I am grateful to have been welcomed into homes and to work with families and children on a personal level through EHS. The families and children I have come to know will influence my nursing career for years to come.”

 

Expressing Self Through Art—Developing an Art Curriculum for Gwen's Girls

Student Interns:
Kiyomi Knox, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Abisola Olaniyan, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

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

Community Preceptors: 
Jhonna Newby, Clairton Site Supervisor
Tamera Stafford, Gwen’s Girls Program Director

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 16, including after-school programs, summer camp, prevention and community engagement. The 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 Communication; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Oral Health.

Project: 
Until recently, staff indicated that Gwen’s Girls Clairton did not greatly utilize the arts in its programming. This has changed in the last year with the addition of a staff member who specializes in the arts and who has used her expansive creativity in approaching new topics with various mediums. With this opening of opportunities, the program leadership discovered that the girls had a passion for art. The Bridging the Gaps interns, with the assistance of the Gwen’s Girls Clairton staff, were able to identify that through art, topics such as grief, stress and self-discovery could be addressed in ways that let the students express themselves openly and safely. This need was heightened by the fact that the local school does not offer art. The interns created an art curriculum with various activities exploring themes such as individuality, expressing emotions, anger and grief to highlight each area of growth and healing. The curriculum will identify ways to approach each topic and the directions and materials needed. It will also include photos and any other additional resources needed to complete the artwork. In addition, the curriculum will specify the appropriate age group for each project.

Intern Statements: 
Kiyomi Knox: “It was a real pleasure and privilege to be able to work with the students at Gwen’s Girls Clairton. We built a rapport with the girls and were able to see how the arts and our project could help them grow in resiliency. It helped us understand more the dynamics of working with children who live in areas affected by violence and trauma as well as that art can impact their lives. I am thankful for the opportunity and will miss the girls.”

Abisola Olaniyan: “I applied to the Bridging the Gaps program to learn more about the vulnerable or at-risk population in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I learned this and more. By working with a fellow intern and a camp counselor that had experience working with children and their experience with art, I was able to learn about the relevance of art and its use in improving psychological, social and emotional well-being. In addition to this, I learned from the girls’ situations they are exposed to by living in an area affected by trauma and violence. I am grateful for this opportunity, and I hope to use these lessons learned personally and professionally.”

 

New Phases for a New Generation

Student Interns:
Kiran Borkar, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health
Mary Mekeal, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

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

Community Preceptor: 
Meghan Briggs, MA, Sojourner House

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 mothers with addiction disorders 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. 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.

Project: 
An essential component of the in-patient rehabilitation program at Sojourner House is the use of the four-step client phase book, which helps measure each client’s recovery progress during her treatment. To understand opinions or thoughts related to the phase book, the Bridging the Gaps student interns conducted client and staff interviews and focus groups and distributed surveys. Using the feedback received, the student interns then updated phase book requirements to better reflect the current population and program needs. The amended phase book included time-bound phases, a rewards system relevant to the modern population of mothers in recovery, and more obtainable goals to encourage client motivation. 

Intern Statements:
Kiran Borkar: “This past summer at Sojourner House has provided perspective into the lives of amazing individuals who are working toward recovery from substance-use disorders as well as the dedicated professionals that tirelessly support them. As an organization, Sojourner promotes an atmosphere of perseverance, forgiveness and self-love. Most of all, the women at the program are a prime example of the powerful healing capabilities a community has when members from all ends unite to fight against injustice. I will carry the principles I have learned through this opportunity as I continue to work with vulnerable populations in the future.”

Mary Mekeal: “Sojourner House is a truly special agency doing transformative work in the East End community. The past two months have opened my eyes to the incredible strength and resiliency required both by clients and staff in drug and alcohol treatment facilities. I am grateful to have had to opportunity to learn from my partner intern and the staff and clients at Sojourner House and will benefit from a broadened perspective as a direct result of this experience.”

 

 

Every Student Matters

Student Interns:
Amanda Harris, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Nina Sexton, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
John S. Maier, PhD, MD, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine

Community Preceptor: 
Denise Jones, MA, Program Director, Youth Enrichment Services

Community Site: 
Youth Enrichment Services (YES) is a local nonprofit that connects young individuals across Pittsburgh to meaningful early work experiences — from vocational trades and research assistants to summer camp counseling and customer service. These experiences help youth build skills and develop expertise linked to career paths, future employment opportunities and postsecondary education. With YES mentorship, the youth go on to become leaders among their peers and within their schools, homes and communities. View Community Partner Web Site

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

Project: 
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked with the Youth Enrichment Services (YES) Summer Scholars program. The interns created a Skills Spotlight curriculum and facilitated interactive sessions to impart life skills that are not traditionally taught or emphasized in school. Along with researching age-appropriate topics, incorporating input from YES staff, analyzing educational curricula for literacy adaptability and preparing enrichment take-home worksheets, the interns created five three-day modules that are available electronically and in hard copy for future YES interns and staff to use.

 

Intern Statements:
Amanda Harris: “My experience at Youth Enrichment Services expanded my heart to a new size that I could not have imagined. Throughout my time here, I have witnessed the compounded effect of the students’ resiliency and the devotion from seasoned staff. This experience has been extremely nourishing and enriching for me as a clinical social worker, but more importantly as an individual.”

Nina Sexton: “My Bridging the Gaps internship has been incredibly impactful and rewarding. The multidisciplinary nature of BTG allowed me to strengthen my public health education by collaborating with social workers and educators. Amanda and I related to the students from different perspectives. BTG gave me a lens through which to see and practice public health that is far beyond what one can learn in the classroom.” 

 

 

Sense of Summer, Sense of Self: Campamento Sonrisa 2019

Student Interns:
Dierdre Martinez-Meehan, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Jessi Smirga, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Academic Preceptor:
Patricia Documét, MD, DrPH, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor: 
Sister Valerie Zottola, Volunteer Coordinator, Casa San José

Community Site: 
Casa San José is a community based nonprofit organization that works directly with the Latino community, providing integration services and empowering families to be self-sufficient. With their offices based in Beechview and East Liberty in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the organization devotes most of its efforts to connecting the community to social services. Casa San José not only works to provide on-the-ground assistance to immigrants, but also to meet with politicians of all levels of government, legal representatives, law enforcement and human service agencies. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020): 
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Mental Health; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Preparedness.

Project: 
The BTG interns created a modular, strength-based curriculum for children who recently arrived from Latin America. The curriculum includes sensory self-soothing art projects, mindfulness-inspired group activities, self-esteem-focused crafts, and activities focused on emotional awareness, all with sensitivity to and emphasis on the children’s cultural backgrounds. These activities and skills will be taken outside the summer program and used throughout Casa’s youth programming. The interns’ focus was to create tools to assemble and practice in camp that will be adaptable for any situation that may cause stress or anxiety. 

Intern Statements:
Jessi Smirga: “Bridging the Gaps has given me the opportunity to grow as a person and as a professional. Working alongside the Latino community in Pittsburgh has shown me how much strength and resiliency a community can have when connected to opportunities and resources. Bridging the Gaps has provided me with the opportunity to work and learn with the Latino community in a capacity that I would not have been able to in any other role. I hope to maintain these relationships and build up from them personally and professionally.”

“Bridging the Gaps me ha brindado la oportunidad de crecer como persona y como profesional. Trabajar junto a la comunidad Latina en Pittsburgh me ha demostrado cuánta fuerza puede tener una comunidad cuando está conectada a oportunidades y recursos. Bridging the Gaps me ha brindado la oportunidad de trabajar y aprender con la comunidad latina en una capacidad que no podría haber tenido en ningún otro rol. Espero mantener estas relaciones y desarrollarlas a nivel personal y profesional.”

Dierdre Martinez-Meehan: “The last eight weeks have reaffirmed my goal to practice medicine in and alongside underserved communities. Achieving a state of well-being is difficult. It becomes even more complex for populations who are marginalized and pushed to the periphery. Creative nonprofits and motivated groups can help folks navigate this complexity and, most importantly, provide support and community. As a BTG intern, I was able to see not only the multiple obstacles people face in their pursuits of health, but also what type of programs help individuals meet their goals.”

“Las últimas ocho semanas han reafirmado mi objetivo de practicar la medicina en y junto a las comunidades marginadas. Lograr un estado de bienestar es difícil. Se vuelve aún más complejo para las poblaciones que están marginadas y empujadas a la periferia. Las organizaciones sin fines de lucro y los grupos motivados pueden ayudar a las personas a navegar por esta complejidad y, lo más importante, brindar apoyo y comunidad. Como pasante de BTG, pude ver no solo los múltiples obstáculos que enfrentan las personas en su búsqueda de salud, sino también qué tipo de programas ayudan a las personas a alcanzar sus metas.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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