Cooking with Fannin County High School’s Consumer Science Class

By Carlie Mzik, Community HealthCorps® Member, Georgia Mountains Health Services

To celebrate March as National Nutrition Month, we’re highlighting the Georgia Mountains Health Services Community HealthCorps team and their amazing AmeriCorps Week service promoting healthy eating at their local high school, Fannin County High School.

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At our local high school, Mrs. Burch encourages her Family and Consumer Sciences students to try new things and practice industry-standards in her classroom kitchens. Her 4th period class includes a group of students with “severe and profound” developmental disabilities who need extra help in the kitchen, but with a class full of hot stoves and teenagers, she can’t be everywhere at once. So when Mrs. Burch asked our Community HealthCorps team to help them during AmeriCorps Week, we decided to get things done.

Primo: Italiano!
GAmtn-Cooking-AmeriCorpsWeekOn Monday, Mrs. Burch announced the theme to the class: Ethnic Foods. The three students in our group were very excited about creating an authentic Italian meal. After talking about traditional Italian foods, we settled on sausage-pepper pasta and caprese salad with a tasty Nutella dessert. Our meal had all the main food groups: grain (pasta); vegetables (tomatoes, onions, and peppers); protein (sausage and cheese); and healthy fat (olive oil). We also discussed different ways to modify the meal based on preferences and resource/dietary restrictions (How could we make this vegetarian? What if we made this for someone who is allergic to wheat? What if we didn’t have a colander?).

After thinking about how much the ingredients would cost and how we could make the same dishes more or less expensive, we made a grocery list, with each student choosing an ingredient to contribute.

Secondo: Ready, Set, Cook!
On Friday afternoon, with fresh veggies in hand and apron strings tied, we got to work. Brandon was master of the skillet, browning the sausage, while Hailey set the water to boiling and Hannah carefully rinsed, sliced, and diced our vegetables. Everyone got a turn tasting the soft, delicious mozzarella and smelling the fresh basil and garlic. While we arranged the beautiful white, red, and green salad, we noticed its resemblance to the colors of the Italian flag. We couldn’t be more excited to eat this variety of colorful foods that looked as good as they were sure to taste.

Our afternoon was a huge success, made apparent by the students’ joy and pride for making such a delicious meal. The project allowed us to serve young adults in multiple ways—it was fun, inclusive, and combined practical independent living skills with nutrition information while building the students’ confidence and helping them express their interests.

AmeriCorps Week is over, but you can explore nutritious new foods any time. For now, check out our simple caprese salad recipe:

Caprese Salad
2 ripe tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mozzarella
8 fresh basil leaves
pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella, then layer in a circular pattern on a plate. Scatter the basil, drizzle the oil, sprinkle the salt, and dig in!

Buon appetito!

Posted in AmeriCorps, americorps week, community healthcorps, Georgia Mountains Health Services, Healthy Futures, national service | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AmeriCorps Works: Kellie’s Journey from VISTA Member to Community HealthCorps Staff

By Kellie Perkins, Research/Data Associate, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®

KellieHi, my name is Kellie Perkins, and I’m the Research/Data Associate for Community HealthCorps. I’m so excited to be celebrating my first official AmeriCorps Week as AmeriCorps staff with the national team here at the National Association of Community Health Centers. As a way to promote national service and how AmeriCorps works to build the future leaders of our nation, I want to share AmeriCorps story.

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After graduating from college, I knew that I wanted to work in some field of public health…but which one specifically? I had no clue. Having an older brother who was a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I knew AmeriCorps was an option for exploring careers while also making a positive impact in a community, so I decided to look at the program as the next step in my future.

I found a national service position as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers (ECCHC): a Resource Development Coordinator who would spend time writing grants and implementing new programs—being a leader in building capacity for a community health center. It read like the perfect position for me!

But as the saying goes, “nothing is perfect,” and neither was this. My year of service had many ups and downs. There were many times that I felt very proud of my service, but there were also some times when I felt discouraged. There were some days where I thought, “The service I’m doing will make such a difference for this community!” and there were other days when I instead thought, “How could this small effort make an impact?” There were projects that taught me more than I could have imagined, but there were other projects which seemed like busy work.

217896_3572376159380_846384900_nWithout the challenges with which I was faced, however, the experience would not have been as transformative for me. It provided me with opportunities to learn about myself, grow professionally, and gain a more realistic understanding of society, health care, and teamwork. I wouldn’t have found the courage to speak up, be a leader, and take initiative without first realizing that more needed to be done. I wouldn’t have known about some of my skills without first needing to fill gaps in the health center’s workforce and taking on unfamiliar roles. I wouldn’t have become national staff with Community HealthCorps without first meeting the amazing group of people who supported me during my service. I saw the potential of AmeriCorps, and they saw the potential in me. So, thank you Dean, Gloria, Cynthia, and everyone else at ECCHC who helped me grow, succeed, and get to where I am today.

I still may not know exactly whether I’ll pursue public health research, policy, or administration in the future, but what I gained from my AmeriCorps experience is much more meaningful—a lifelong respect and passion for national service.

Posted in 20th Anniversary of Community HealthCorps, AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alums, AmeriCorps Vista, americorps week, community healthcorps, Corporation for National & Community Service, national service | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AmeriCorps Works: Russell’s Journey from Community HealthCorps Member to Staff

By Russell Brown, Program Specialist, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®

RussellGreetings from the National Association of Community Health Centers! My name is Russell Brown, and I am the newest addition to the Community HealthCorps program’s national staff. It is AmeriCorps Week, and with that comes the celebration and acknowledgment of not only the year I served as a Community HealthCorps Member, but for all the members and alumni who have served since the inception of AmeriCorps. There were many experiences during my year of service that shaped who I am as a person, but nothing was as profound as the story I will share with you below.

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“I was raped. He had HIV.”

The silence began engulfing her muddled sobs. My ears started ringing. My fingers shaking with the adrenaline now electrifying my senses. What do I do? How do I help her? I reached for the tissue box and placed it in front of her. She reached out, thanking me in-between sobs. I didn’t know if she could hear my voice quivering on every syllable. I didn’t know if she saw my hands shake in my lap. I just remember our eyes meeting for the brief, calming moment. I said, “You don’t have to apologize for anything. I am so happy you are here today. My name is Russell. I am a tester and counselor here. Let me ask you some more questions before we begin the test.”

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If you asked me back in September of 2011, the start of my service year, if I would be able to handle a session like that, I would have laughed in your face. But my confidence and knowledge grew throughout my Community HealthCorps Pre-Service Orientation at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. We learned the history of the community health center movement, health disparities in rural and urban communities, and how to be an effective and socially-competent Member at our various program sites.

Mass League IMG00032-20110908-1136After completing our team orientation, I was placed to serve at the Martha Eliot Health Center, located within the heart of the Bromley-Heath Housing Development in Boston, MA. At the time of my service year, it was a fully-functioning community health center that not only served the residents in Bromley-Health, but also the larger community. One of my main duties was to work as an HIV tester and outreach worker for Project Protection. I had the opportunity to train and obtain my certifications as an HIV Tester and Risk Reduction Counselor, Outreach Worker, and Medical Case Manager. One of the biggest components of my various trainings was this idea of “meeting someone where they’re at.” That mantra was repeated throughout each training, almost to the point of ad nauseum. It seemed like a very trivial and abstract idea, but as I later found out, it is the very backbone within the field of risk reduction counseling.

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After listening to her story, asking questions, and giving her information about her risks, I started the test. I sent her to the lobby to wait the 20 minutes for her results. I brought her back into the room. I sat her in the chair. I turned the testing kit towards her and said, “You’re non-reactive. You don’t have HIV.” She jumped up. Screamed. Threw her hands to the ceiling and shouted, “Thank you!” She then looked at me, opened up her arms, and gave me a hug: “Thank you so much for listening to me. Thank you so much for being calm and not freaking out. Thank you for everything.”

I later found out that I was the first person she had told about that incident. Although I did many other duties during my year of service, being an HIV tester and outreach worker was the most humbling, gratifying, and transformative duty I had. It led me to seek employment in that field. I applied for a position at Boston Children’s Hospital working for the Boston HAPPENS Program as an HIV Tester and Medical Case Manager. That direct client contact was one of the most tempting aspects of doing the Community HealthCorps program. I wanted to have an effect on the community I was serving with. What I didn’t know was how that opportunity would forever change my life.

After working two years for the Boston HAPPENS Program, I began my position at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) in Bethesda, MD. I uprooted myself out of my home state of Massachusetts and began my employment as a Program Specialist with the Community HealthCorps program; the same program that gave me that life-changing opportunity back in 2011. I owe everything I have to the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and Community HealthCorps. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be in this position. This is the next step in my career. Although I am working at the national level, I still think about all the clients I have worked with and how they have shaped me. And that sometimes, just meeting someone where they are at can be the most powerful thing you can do.

Posted in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alums, americorps week, community healthcorps, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, National Association of Community Health Centers, national service, volunteer, Workforce Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment