Prevention Program Supervisor, Sarah’s Inn
What do you like most about your job?
I absolutely LOVE my job. The job that I have now is what I always dreamed of doing, but didn't know what it was called. We work under the mission to improve the lives of those affected by domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence for future generations. My department contributes to that mission by facilitating in-school workshops and presentations on healthy friendship and relationships to middle and high school students with the intention of eradicating domestic violence for future generations. I am purposely trying to work myself out of a job. This position taps into my health promotion and education concentration, and allows me to reach students, school faculty and administration, and parents alike with the information needed to create cultural change in their homes, schools, and classrooms. Unfortunately, domestic violence is an equally opportunity offender in that it doesn't discriminate based on age, race, income, or sexual orientation--you can find it anywhere. What I love most about my job is working with students of varying socio-economic backgrounds and having honest conversations that they would never have otherwise. I also really enjoy being able to incorporate pop-culture in the classroom… because when else can you use Kim Kardashian and Kanye West as a learning lesson?
What inspired you to pursue an MPH degree?
I was born and raised in Chicago, and always felt as though children were the forgotten voice. I've always wanted to work with young people, but never desired to be a teacher and because of that, my career history stretches into almost every variation of youth work outside of the classroom. I worked in after school programming, tutoring, mentoring, summer programming, literacy programs, physical activity, all-girls groups, co-ed, and even a brief stint with the toy retailer American Girl. The commonality across my experience is that I worked mostly in impoverished communities, low-resourced schools, and community centers where the demand oftentimes outweighed the available assistance. It was there that I realized that if you increase a child's self-esteem, their achievement also grows. It became my goal to use public health as a tool to assist those who were marginalized economically, as well as work to improve the resulting emotional and psychological impact this condition had on them.
Why did you choose Illinois for your MPH?
My husband and I are both UIUC alums, and he had a potential career opportunity in Champaign around the same time. It was an easy decision, as luckily there was a Public Health program for me to apply to.
How did your Illinois MPH degree help prepare you to work in the field OR what were the highlights of your time in the MPH program?
My Illinois MPH degree prepared for me for my current role as a Prevention Program Supervisor at a domestic violence agency foremost by highlighting the importance of the community stakeholder in the work that you do. I work with a population that is often silenced or not believed, so creating spaces where their voices can be heard is crucial to the mission. If you want a successful program, it's necessary to create a place for the community at the table. Additionally, I value the knowledge I gained around how to evaluate programs and analyze data, because numbers illustrate a problem or solution within the world around us, and understanding the evidence is key to creating change.
What advice do you have for current students?
Take advantage of opportunities that align with your passion. Create a personal mission statement for yourself outlining your purpose, and say it to yourself often because it's important to remember who you are and why you're there. There were times when I would compare myself to other students or become overwhelmed by the entire experience, and that's where I would remind myself of my purpose and how that fleeting moment was part of a larger goal.