As told to Adrienne Eckman
ServeCT: Is this your first year as an AmeriCorps member?
Olivia: Yes, this is my first year.
ServeCT: Where do you serve with HealthForward and what is your role?
Olivia: I serve with HealthForward in partnership with Connecticut AHEC, which stands for Area Health Education Centers. I serve at Central AHEC in Hartford as the Program Coordinator. HealthForward focuses on health education, basically instructing high school students about health careers. We are encouraging students in under privileged areas to go into the health field so there is more representation.
I also serve with the CNA (certified nurse assistant) pathway to college program. I assist with data and registration with students. We at Central offer free CNA classes. Students only need to pay for the actual certification, their drug and alcohol test, and their tuberculosis test. Then, the rest of the program is free. They receive clinical hours so they are set for certification. The program lasts four weeks.
ServeCT: Why did you choose to serve with HealthForward?
Olivia: I originally applied for a different health related program. However, HealthForward Program Director Celia Meyer saw my application and suggested I might be a better fit for HealthForward. I immediately knew that was something I wanted to do. I graduated from Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) with a Bachelors in Public Health, and the education side of the program caught my interest. Being able to provide health education with HealthForward was something I thought I would love to do.
ServeCT: Would you mind sharing a bit about your background that led you to applying to be an AmeriCorps member?
Olivia: I was just about to graduate and was looking for a job. I was taking a gap year before going back to graduate school. I wanted something that would give me experience. My friend was an AmeriCorps member with Jumpstart so I heard about AmeriCorps from her. I started looking at programs around the state. I knew I wanted to stay in Connecticut. I grew up in New Fairfield, Connecticut and intend on staying in Connecticut after my year of service. After the year, I will be going back to SCSU to get my Masters in Public Health.
ServeCT: Are there any activities or interests you pursue outside of your service?
Olivia: I am committed to being a health educator, even on social media. So I advocate for healthcare and making sure the correct information goes out to everyone.
ServeCT: This has been a different type of service year than past because of the COVID-19 crisis. How have you been handling your service year while practicing social distancing? Are you serving in different ways in response to the crisis?
Olivia: It has been an adjustment. Normally, I serve by traveling to classrooms to speak with students. I would do presentations with students every week or every other week. Now, I am having to think about how to continue getting those workshops out to students. I emailed my partner schools to ask if they would be interested in holding meetings over Zoom instead. I was able to hold a group meeting on Tuesday for the first time! We did a health education workshop. We got a bunch of students online and tried to make it a break from their school work. We didn’t want to overwhelm them as we know students have a lot of school work at home and are also adjusting to working remotely. We discussed how to stay positive during this time. We do have students who are essential workers so we wanted to give them information to help them with their mental health. I am also currently working on a statewide presentation that will be delivered to all of AHEC. Currently, there is a lot of misinformation circulating around the virus and we feel it’s important to send a clear message of the facts.
ServeCT: What advice would you give a new member on their first day of service?
Olivia: Go in with an open mind and be prepared to make the service year your own. Don’t try to mimic someone else’s experience!