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Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of blog posts written by Human Health students in the Health 1,2,3,4 program’s Health 497 course – Community Health Education Strategies. To see an overview of the program and this series, please read this post.

Throughout my time working with King Middle School, I feel as though I have grown exponentially both professionally and personally. I am truly grateful that I was able to work with such an engaging group of students and staff across a multi-level educational spectrum-from King Middle School to Emory. Additionally, it was extremely rewarding to be able to engage with the local Atlanta community by talking about health topics that I deem extremely important. My passion for health began when I was a freshman at Emory and first learned about the multi-faceted aspects of health and well-being. Before then, I had really only thought about the physical side of health. However, I now realize that health encompasses much more than that. Health is deeply integrated into our society-socially, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and structurally. When we focus on being healthy across multiple pillars, we are more likely to thrive in other areas of our life, such as work, school and personal relationships.

As a sophomore at Emory, I began to realize the importance of adequately and accurately disseminating health information, along with my personal passion for teaching. Therefore, when I learned about the opportunity of creating and teaching health lessons for King Middle School, I was beyond excited. Over the course of two semesters, I have learned an unparalleled amount about how to respectfully engage with community partners. While I have worked in my community countless times before, it wasn’t until HLTH 497 that I truly began to realize first-hand the importance of listening to your community members, being respectful of their knowledge and desires and working collaboratively to create an open and inviting space for communication. I believe this is an extremely important professional development tool because no matter what field you go into, you will have to work as a team with a group of people, who you may not know or who may have different backgrounds from yourself. I believe that this is especially important when discussing health because health is an extremely personal topic that can mean something completely different to each person. Therefore, approaching health lessons with strategies to promote inviting, honest and respectful conversations is key.

In the future, I intend to pursue a career as a doctor, and I know that I will take the principles that I have learned from working with King Middle School and apply it to situations with my future patients. Once I was able to actually be in the Zoom classroom shadowing or implementing my lesson plans, I learned a countless amount from our community partners. The coaches at King Middle School taught me about how to manage time effectively, how to be an active listener and how to navigate challenging situations in an efficient manner. For example, the coaches helped me learn how to call on students, when no one seemed to want to participate. The professors of the Health 1,2,3,4 program have taught me a countless amount about how to convey health information to unknowing audiences. I found that creating lessons that were both relatable and engaging for the students helped them to comprehend the information, along with creating a reciprocating and fun environment to foster learning. Specifically, my partner and I always tried to include examples from our own life experiences before asking the students to participate in activities. Through this strategy, I believe the students felt more comfortable answering questions and engaging with the material.

From a health perspective, I think it is easy for us to think negatively about our own health because it is always possible to do things to improve our health. However, throughout my lesson implementation, I tried to remind the students that we all have moments when we make unhealthy decisions. For example, I told them it is okay to eat snack food in moderation. By maintaining a positive, yet realistic, attitude about the health topics when presenting our lessons, my partner and I intended to promote students’ comprehension of the importance of working to improve health behaviors. Overall, I can’t thank both Emory and King Middle School enough for allowing me the opportunity to grow as a person and talk about topics I am passionate about, while also hopefully helping to improve the health of the community.

To learn more about the Health 1,2,3,4 program, visit the program webpage. For more information about collaborative partnership opportunities, contact program director Lisa DuPree at madupre@emory.edu.