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In Community and Global Health, healthier communities are part of the classwork

In Community and Global Health, healthier communities are part of the classwork

When School of Community and Global Health (SCGH) masters students Kimberly Johnson and Bree Hemingway took one of their school’s grant-writing courses last year, they had no idea one of their assignments would lead to actual funding.

As Hemingway recalled: “We had to write a mock grant proposal and, at the same time, the School of Community and Global Health had been approached by the Bonita Unified School District asking for some outreach since their funding had been cut so immensely.”

They decided to apply for a grant through Youth Service America – a nonprofit committed to increasing the quality and quantity of volunteer opportunities for young people. They received $500, the maximum award, to create and run an after-school nutrition program.

Johnson and Hemingway assembled volunteers from SCGH and other schools and programs – including Applied Women’s Studies, the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, and the School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences – to help create the curriculum. The plan was to conduct a series of classes for a group of students at Ramona Middle School in La Verne, California.

Johnson and Hemingway met with Ramona teachers and nurses, as well as the directors of the after-school program, to get input on what would be appropriate for the students’ age groups, along with what types of lessons they thought would prove most beneficial. Using what they learned from the faculty and staff, and implementing practical knowledge they had gained in SCGH’s Master of Public Health program, they organized a series of five hour-long after-school classes.

“The first class was about what healthy living actually means,” Johnson said, “We talked about how health isn’t just physical health, but mental, emotional, and spiritual. We talked about balance.”

The rest of the classes featured lessons in nutrition, fitness, and body image. The final class was an open house where kids taught their parents about the tools they had discovered to help them live healthy lifestyles. A central goal of the project was to show the students how healthy living isn’t just a personal or family-based practice, but extends to all the different levels of school and community.

That is why Johnson and Hemingway had the kids brainstorm on making their community, school, family, and themselves healthier. “They got really creative at the community level,” Hemingway recalled. “One had the notion of providing a picnic with everybody in the whole community, so that everyone would bring something healthy–it was really great.”

Of course, Johnson and Hemingway were also aware that kids don’t usually have control over the dietary choices made at home. That is why the two SCGH students sent an information packet to parents and had the kids devise realistic ways of influencing their family. “A lot of them had wonderful, sensible ideas like, ‘I’ll go shopping with my parents,’ or ‘I’ll cook a meal for my family,’” Hemingway said.

Overall, Johnson and Hemingway said the students, throughout the program, grew increasingly interested in the different facets of nutrition and healthy living. And they were equally impressed by how engaged the kids had become at a practical level–even lobbying for healthy snacks in the student store. 

By the end of classes, Bonita Unified School District asked Johnson and Hemingway if they would maintain the program. Unfortunately, they graduated this spring, but SCGH Program Manager Maggie Hawkins sees a long-term partnership developing: “We’re continuing our relationship with the Bonita Unified School District through student internships and are presently in discussion with the district about future projects,” she said. “SCGH has a strong commitment to maintaining ongoing relationships with the communities of the Inland Valleys.”

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