Hello again! Jack Wong here, serving at the University of Michigan. Only a few weeks left in my term. It is hard to believe my time as a VISTA is coming to an end.
Just as a refresher, my primary placement site is the College of Pharmacy where I have been working on a variety of projects, the most significant of which has been to expand an innovative, interprofessional service-learning course. Enrolled college students can complete their service at a variety of placement sites, however, I advocate for Community Action Network (CAN) and Peace Neighborhood Center. Both sites offer after school programs (ASP) for economically disadvantaged K-12 students in Washtenaw County.
Since my last post, I helped to coordinate the service projects for the college students placed at CAN and Peace. The group at CAN led a discussion session that gave teens in the community a chance to ask questions and learn about college. That is, how to prepare, where and how to apply, what college life is like, how to choose a major, etc. While they are normally apathetic, I believe the teens found the presentation useful, as the service-learning students were able to answer their questions and generate dialogue.
The students at Peace also put together a presentation. Theirs, however, was much different. The Director of Children Services at Peace requested that the group of pharmacy and kinesiology students present information about ADHD to parents. She explained that many of the children attending ASP at the center have either been diagnosed or show symptoms of the disorder, and it is important that their parents understand what ADHD is and how best to manage it. Under the supervision of a clinical pharmacist, the students dispelled common myths about ADHD and discussed symptoms and treatment options, emphasizing the importance of supportive relationships.
Transitioning into the summer, I have been mostly preparing for this coming fall, meeting with community partners, recruiting students, and updating webpages and various course documents. I have also been working on my VISTA Year Initiative (VYI). Each summer, CAN offers a camp for the children that attend ASP. In addition to normal camp activities, CAN works to mitigate summer learning loss by incorporating reading, writing, math, and science into daily schedules. This year’s theme has been an exploration of animals around the world. For my VYI, I agreed to develop six weeks of animal themed STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities. The children have enjoyed everything from testing different skunk odor removers to dissecting owl pellets.
As I pursue an MPH, I hope to continue serving with CAN. It has been a great year full of unique opportunities to learn and develop both personally and professionally. I am confident that the knowledge and experience I have gained as a VISTA will be advantageous to my future as a public health professional.
Hello, my name is Jack Wong, and I am a first-year AmeriCorps VISTA serving at the University of Michigan (U-M). I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. This past August, I graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in kinesiology, specializing in health promotion. Next fall, I begin a master’s program in public health at U-M.
My primary placement site is the College of Pharmacy, where I have been working on a variety of projects over the past six months, the most significant of which has been to expand an innovative, interprofessional service-learning course. Enrolled college students can select from a variety of placement sites, however, I advocate for Community Action Network (CAN) and Peace Neighborhood Center. Both sites offer after school programs (ASP) for economically disadvantaged K-12 students in Washtenaw County. The U-M students who elect to serve at the sites have an opportunity to lead health lessons and activities in addition to tutoring the children. This semester, we are focusing on the theme of environments and health. That is, how we impact the environment and how our environments can affect our health. The idea is to have the children develop a sense of responsibility for their center, school, and community.
In past semesters, service-learning students could choose to serve at only two CAN sites. I recently played an important role in expanding the CAN placements to include two additional sites managed by fellow VISTAs, Stephen Crano and Meghan Gieseker. Both sites are at local elementary schools, providing the service-learning students a greater opportunity to utilize school resources and space in order to promote learning and physical activity. The children also seem to be more receptive and focused in their school environment, making this partnership even more rewarding for the students and the children they work with.
As part of an ongoing initiative to recruit non-pharmacy students, for whom the course is elective, and to increase the course visibility, I created a course webpage and posted an article highlighting my work and the importance of service-learning (https://pharmacy.umich.edu/service). I also helped make the course available to undergraduate kinesiology students. This semester, in addition to eight other non-pharmacy students, fourteen kinesiology students enrolled in the course. This is a fourfold increase in non-pharmacy enrollment from last semester and the first time the course has had significant representation from other disciplines. As the role of the health team becomes more prominent, it is increasingly important that there be opportunities for health science students from different disciplines to dialogue and collaborate. The service-learning course and sites benefit from the different perspectives of interprofessional teams of students. Also, the more diverse array of students exposed to the community, the greater their collective understanding of the determinants of health, knowledge that can be applied to their future work in health professions.
So far, I have really enjoyed my experience as a VISTA, but there is still much to be done to ensure the sustainability of my projects. I look forward to continuing my involvement at U-M and in the community.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!