HIV Prevention Volunteering – Summer 2017

One volunteering position I was involved with during this summer was on the HIV Prevention Team for Care Alliance Health Center, a nonprofit federally qualified health center in Cleveland, Ohio. Care Alliance strives to provide high-quality comprehensive medical and dental care as well as patient advocacy services to people regardless of ability to pay. They have four different clinics around the city. The target population is those experiencing homelessness and those living in/around public housing. Everyone is welcome at Care Alliance, and no one is turned away from care. (I volunteered with them previously in January!)

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The Central neighborhood clinic for Care Alliance opened in 2015. In Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, 73% of families live in poverty. The infant mortality rate and the type II diabetes rate are both double the city’s average. Therefore, it is pertinent to increase health access in this area.

The HIV Prevention Team 2017 summer cohort is made up of 8 volunteers (we are all college students) split among three teams since there are three supervisors who conduct HIV tests themselves. It was an honor to be one of those selected and I was glad to be a part of Care Alliance once again. This summer, LaChanee was my supervisor and I was on her team along with another volunteer. (She is currently a HIV test counselor with Care Alliance and graduated from college in 2015.) Another impression accomplishment is that she runs her own dance business on the side.

HIV has stigma attached to it, and my hopes while I was volunteering was to decrease the discrimination and dispel common false perceptions about it.

In May, I applied and interviewed for the volunteer position, which was posted on Care Alliance’s Facebook page, which I follow. I was immediately drawn to the role because of how much impact it could have on my community and the valuable skills I would gain from the experience. Some requirements for this HIV prevention role were good verbal and communication skills, cultural sensitivity, open-mindedness, optimism, responsibility, and accountability. Being at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent was also needed. I was chosen to be in the cohort after showing that I was serious and committed to the betterment of the community. Afterwards, there were mandatory training sessions later in May, and prior to that, I had to research more on HIV to get a firm grasp of the topic.

Training took two days in their Central Neighborhood clinic. I brought a tote bag that was large enough to carry water, my planner, pencil pouch, and a binder and notebook to jot down notes. It pays to be prepared.

The first day, we were welcomed and did introductions. Each volunteer was provided with a folder containing documents, including the Volunteer Program Handbook. I read this handbook over multiple times to refresh my memory. The volunteer coordinator gave us training, which involved an interactive PowerPoint about patient confidentiality and we had to answer if the scenario was confidential or not. We reviewed general volunteer information like the code of conduct and expectations. We were given a packet of HR documents to complete too. Next we were provided a comprehensive information presentation, which was a run-through of HIV/AIDS, STIs, PrEP, and PEP. The counselors also covered risk reduction (with a demonstration of proper condom usage).

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PrEP is for HIV negative people who are at high risk for contracting HIV because they engage in risky behaviors like unsafe sex with an HIV+ partner. This is taken daily for the rest of your life. PEP is post-exposure, and for people who have recently engaged in risky behaviors (such as unsafe sex or sex while intoxicated) within the last 72 hours. This is taken daily for 28 days.

The second day of training, we learned about funding streams for HIV testing, universal precautions for testing, forms and data-collection when working with clients, pre- and post-test counseling, and positive procedures. Additionally, we reviewed databases and data entry. Training ended with us getting into our teams and meeting to discuss anything we had to do before June. Leaving training, I was excited about the scope of my volunteer work with Care Alliance (which I’ll call CA). However, I was informed that I’d be finger pricking clients, and I assumed I’d only do cheek swab tests. I was not feeling that comfortable taking even a drop of blood from a person. Then I was told that cheek swab tests (or OraQuick) are more expensive and may not be as accurate. So I had to do this even if it made me uneasy. Besides training, I had to complete a drug screening.

Throughout my volunteer tenure, I was required to wear business casual clothing for the office and more casual while we were doing outreach on the streets. With outreach, especially if outdoors, jeans and sneakers are allowed! A CA volunteer badge was also worn to identify that I was with the organization. Personal hygiene was important, as well as high respect for everyone I encountered. I held myself to the standard of treating each client as if they were my own family member. But above all, the number one important thing during work was to protect and maintain patient confidentiality!

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This is the Alere Clearview Complete 1/2 HIV Test, which Care Alliance workers call Clearview for short. This test involves pricking the finger to draw blood. In 10-15 minutes, results are ready!

In June and July, I helped work towards preventing HIV transmission through a variety of methods like conducting rapid testing and risk-reduction counseling around the community. I conducted HIV testing in clinic as well as at community events with the HIV Testing Mobile Unit; some activities were in the evenings/on weekends. My work schedule conflicted with my volunteering one and did not allow me to conduct HIV education sessions like originally planned. Additionally, I assembled and distributed risk reduction materials such as condom kits. Also, I scheduled primary care and PrEP appointments as well as assisted with quality control of all required paperwork. Everything I did, I recorded in my daily journal. I was required to keep and turn in a monthly log for my volunteer tenure as well.

In one or two hours, my colleague and I prepared over 100 condom kits, which consisted of five condoms, five lubricant oil tubes, a business card, and a sticker. This was for Safe on the Scene, a CDC-funded initiative.

Rapid testing is done at the site of care and can be completed in about 20 minutes! They are highly sensitive and specific tests, so results are usually accurate, but they need to be confirmed by additional testing if the result is positive.
Risk-reduction counseling involves discussing with the client what are things they can do to lower their risk, realistically. For example, some people who have had 50 sexual partners within the last year will not likely change to becoming abstinent. They may lower that to 25 partners a year. It has to be something they can stick with, and be completed incrementally (baby steps!)

One major project I was involved with was a CDC-funded HIV prevention initiative called Safe on the Scene (SOTS). Their slogan is Safe Just Got Safer. This $4 million initiative is intended to turn around incidences of HIV in Cuyahoga County, and the target population is African American males who have sex with males (MSM).
According to HIV/AIDS surveillance records at the Cleveland Department of Public Health, approximately 200 county residents were newly diagnosed with HIV-only or HIV-with-AIDS in 2013, and 42 percent of all HIV cases in 2012-2013 were among African American males ages 13-29. That’s almost one in two men.
(Source URL:
Therefore, the most at risk for HIV contraction are African-American MSM.

Recovery Resources and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio are partners of Care Alliance for this initiative. From this project, it is estimated that over 30,000 people will be served during the five-year span. Progress can already be witnessed; in 2015, Care Alliance reported that they provided risk reduction counseling and HIV testing to 3,314 individuals!

Most of my time was concentrated around Care Alliance’s Stokes Clinic (6001 Woodland Avenue, second floor), on the east side of Cleveland, and outreach events at places like Walgreen’s and public centers.

East Side Clinic for Care Alliance Health Center

  • June 5 – Walgreen’s in Lakewood, OH
    • I went on the Mobile HIV Testing Van to recruit people and conduct the questionnaire to assess their sexual health behaviors.
    • Recruited two women!
  • June 7 – Prepared condom kits at our Stokes Clinic for distribution and recruited people around the neighborhood for walk-in testing
    • Tested real citizens for the first time! I tested three men!
    • Went to Woodland library nearby and hung poster on bulletin board!
  • June 15 – LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland
    • This was my first time at this center, which is a huge, great resource for not only the LGBTQ community but also allies. It was a lovely facility, and colorful. My colleague Bailee and another volunteer Katherine were present with me; they focused on recruiting people outdoors. Altogether, I tested four people, all of whom were walk-ins, and my testing skills were getting better. I did have awkward silences with the first couple of clients, but one client and I had a nice conversation. I found myself sharing life details with that person! He made me appreciate my work more.
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  • June 17 – Park Village Apartments (Section 8 Housing) in Hough neighborhood
    • There was a community event in this public housing neighborhood, including a cookout, bouncy house, DJ, and resources fair. The booths in the courtyard included Planned Parenthood, University Hospitals, and more.
      We parked our Mobile Testing Van close to the action, and set up our materials to test people. That afternoon, we tested four folks, which was not as much as we hoped, but Planned Parenthood also used our van to test people since they’re one of our partners.
    • I personally tested two people and distributed the condom kits I made!

      The interior of the Mobile Testing Van has four chairs and a table that serves as the work surface for testing. It is actually very comfortable in the back.


  • June 24 – Cleveland’s 28th Annual Pride Festival
    • For five hours, I attended my first Pride! With a handful of Safe on the Scene workers, we walked in the Parade at noon and held a giant banner! I do not have a strong, powerful voice when I shout out so I couldn’t be heard well but the others hollered out “Who are we? Safe on the Scene! What do we want to be? HIV free! Safe on the Scene! Safe on the Scene! Safe on the Scene!” And then another worker following behind the banner yelled out “Get tested! Know your [HIV] status! Knowing is sexy!” It felt so different to be walking in a parade with hundreds of people watching you from the sidewalks and the rooftops. I never knew the feeling until this day. I was so fortunate to be a part of this moment.
    • At the booth we set up, we had a table in front as well as one in the back. The front table held a spin-the-wheel trivia game, free promotional items, fans, and business cards, and a clipboard. One or two people manned the front to ask the booth visitors trivia questions related to HIV, and then ask if they wanted their prize as a keychain, phone wallet, condom case (in black or pink), or a wristband. In the back, I was in charge of the build-your-own-condom-kit station. Participants write down their demographics and then get a goodie bag. They can put as many condoms and lubricants as they like into the bag, and it must fit. We had an assortment of condoms in a variety of flavors. We also had female condoms and flavored dental dams. Our lubricants were water-based and silicone-based.

      The condom station at our Safe on the Scene booth

    • In just the four hours I was at the table, we had over 120 people stop by to make condom kits. Since the Safe on the Scene team would remain until 8 pm, I am sure that we would see at least 200 people total for Saturday. We gave away all the female condoms and dental dams we had. The one thing that bothered me at this station was that one man overstocked on our condoms and I did not say something to him. His goodie bag was overstuffed and he also placed a good number of condoms into his backpack. At least he’ll have protected sex. Overall, I had a great experience and we did a good amount of outreach.
    • According to our organizer Lawrence White, who stayed all day, we interacted with 250 people. Furthermore, the festival staff said that we were in the top 10 most visited booths at Pride! Apparently they surveyed visitors about which booth was most memorable and recommended and people said “Safe on the Scene!”
  • June 25 – “Buck on the Scene” event @ Cleveland Exotic Dance Studio
    • This dance workshop event was made possible by Buck Out Cle LLC and Safe on the Scene! These two entities partnered together in efforts to raise awareness around HIV testing, prevention and linkage to HIV services. The workshop was lead by two members of the group Prancing Elites, Jerel and Kareem. The Prancing Elites are from Mobile, Alabama, and are featured on the hit show on Oxygen “The Prancing Elites Project.”
    • We had the Mobile Testing Van out by the entrance for HIV testing and the upstairs where the dance studio was, we had HIV testing as well as STD testing (a restroom is needed to collect a urine sample). I had my phone out so I could ask the event attendees to fill out the registration form, and so we could keep track of how many people attended.
    • Admission for the event is free if visitors get a confidential HIV or STD test provided by Safe on the Scene workers/volunteers. Otherwise, they pay a $10 admission fee.
  • June 27 – Walgreen’s in LakewoodNational HIV Testing Day!


    • The first National HIV Testing Day was observed on June 27, 1995 (
    • All afternoon, we recruited a total of 19 people for HIV testing at Walgreen’s, which partners with health departments/AIDs services each year for this special event! We had four volunteers, including myself, wearing our red shirts. While we are trained to test people, our job for the day was to recruit citizens to get the tests. The HIV testing counselors handled the bloodwork and paperwork. We also handed out $5 Dave’s Supermarket and McDonald’s gift cards, as well as Care Alliance Health Center goodie bags that included condoms, a sticker saying “I got tested”, and much more.

      The volunteers!

    • There were quite a number of people out, but we did get many rejections. However, 19 people is phenomenal because our goal was to get at least 12 people tested.

      Me squinting into the sunlight.         Taken by my college mentor and HIV Testing Coordinator, Carly.

      Our station set-up. Results were given inside the Mobile Testing Van for confidentiality.

  • June 28 – Walgreen’s in Lakewood, OH
    • This day went by faster than anticipated. The first hour there, we tested five people! Wow! We tested over a dozen people total, exceeding our goal for the day. We even had a client talk with us for over 20 minutes.
  • TOTAL HOURS: 29 (including May training: 36)
    Total Personally Tested: 9


  • July 19 – Stokes Clinic
    • I assembled 47 condom kits in an hour. The kits had five condoms, five lubes, and a business card. It was just me and LaChanee in the office. LaChanee was answering emails and doing other administrative duties.
    • I read part of a book called 100 Questions & Answers about HIV and AIDS, third edition.
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      Then I distributed flyers advertising Care Alliance’s Block Party, held the next day. I went to the library, police station (no luck), Boys & Girls Club, and an apartment complex (no luck). I also handed some to a Beechbrook staff member, who shared the rest with her team.

  • July 20 – Care Alliance Block Party @ Central Neighborhood
    • CA hosts an annual block party. This year it was at their newest branch clinic, Central Clinic. This was a community celebration of health and wellness. Food, beverages, and entertainment were provided, along with raffle prizes and free giveaways!Services included bike repairs, blood pressure checks, cancer screenings (lung, colon, etc.)and information, health education, appointment scheduling, fitness activities (such as Zumba), CMSD student enrollment, and SNAP enrollment. We also had other community resources such as the neighborhood food bank, Molina Health Care, and our HIV van. A face-painter was available for the kids.

      The role I had was to greet visitors at my booth and have them sign in if they wanted a meal ticket and/or a BINGO score card. Those who completed the card by going to each booth inside and outside the clinic would then get a raffle ticket to enter the giveaways. We gave away two child bikes and two Dave’s Supermarket gift cards as well as a goodie bag. Everyone who attended the event left with something though – pamphlets, free food, and more. I was amazed at how we had hundreds of people come! Even the CEO and COO of Care Alliance stopped by to thank the staff for our hard work. This was my last day of volunteering for the summer too, and this block party was a great way to end my term.



  • Thank you to Carly Hill, my college mentor and HIV Prevention Coordinator of Care Alliance. You’re so motivational and positive! You make things all run smoothly and no one gets left behind when they’re on your team. I am always grateful for you.
  • Thank you to Annette James, HIV Prevention Specialist of Care Alliance. Your laidback demeanor was always appreciated! During training, you pushed the volunteers by asking us “Why? Explain it to me. Teach me.” Your presence is calming.
  • Thanks to LaChanee Davis, my team supervisor. I really enjoyed working with you. You were very flexible with working out my schedule. You motivated me to be better and was honest with me about my strengths and weaknesses. I also love how you are involved with your own business in addition to what you do with Care Alliance.
  • Thank you Mohamed Yugo, for your bright personality. You are very polite and look out for others. You also made me smile often when you danced or sang while driving us in the Mobile Testing Van! Good luck with your MPH at BU!
  • Thanks to Bailee, my fellow volunteer. You help make me feel comfortable when we work together. You’re in Public Health as well and you’re going to be a great doctor! You’re hardworking and easygoing.
  • Thank you to Karl Kimpo, who works with Planned Parenthood. I have done some community outreach and testing with you. I am glad to meet someone who’s had decades of experience with sexual health and marginalized populations.
  • Thanks to the people I have met through Planned Parenthood and Safe on the Scene. It was great to work with you all! Lawrence White, you rocked for organizing our parade walk and booths for Pride!
  • Thanks to Care Alliance in general for what it has done for the community. All volunteers have to pat themselves on the back for assisting in carrying out CA’s mission.
  • Thanks to the organizations CA collaborated with; community partnerships are a key to success! I learned more about the resources around Cleveland.
  • Thank you to my supporters, including the readers of my blog.


I spent a total of 43 hours with Care Alliance this summer. I enjoyed the work I have done with Care Alliance as part of their HIV Prevention Team. The summer was productive and I reached dozens of individuals. The most pivotal moment of my work (and biggest struggle) was getting over my discomfort with pricking patient fingers. Some really hated needles, and I share their pain. I was able to work with diverse groups of people: people in public housing, people who were incarcerated, people who were MSM, and transgender people.

The amount of knowledge I gained while volunteering was tremendous! I furthered my own knowledge on HIV and the stigmas people have towards it. I learned about the Ryan White CARE Act, which made it possible for more treatment, attention, and funding to be allowed for HIV/AIDS. We have come a long way since AIDS was called an epidemic in the 1980s; before, public discourse perceived AIDS as contagious and people with AIDS would not be allowed in schools or other areas. Fear guided people’s actions. With technology and education, there is less controversy over it. Public health is such a rewarding field and I am happy to be in this major at OSU.
During winter break, I strongly believe I’ll return to Care Alliance to help out more with their HIV efforts.


Please see these resources to learn more:
“Giving HIV Test Results”, April 2013, by Maria A. Corwin, LCSW, CAC III, and edited by Lucy Bradley-Springer, PhD, RN, ACRN, FAAN.


To find a testing site near you:

  • visit ActAgainstAIDS,
  • text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948), or
  • call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

For Care Alliance:
Follow them on Facebook and Twitter as well!

For Safe on the Scene,
#SafeontheScene #KnowingisSexy

For LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland:


This summer, I had an interesting employment opportunity. I was employed by Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) and while I was listed as working primarily at the NEOMED-CSU Partnership Building at Cleveland State University, in reality, I was able to spend time as a supervisor not just at CSU’s campus but also spent a week at a library and a few days at a rural college. This was truly a unique summer job and this is solely because of my great relationship with a NEOMED Health Profession Program Pipeline Coordinator named Ms. Johnson! I’ve known her for about 4 years now, and she’s all over northeast Ohio running programs and going to different high schools. During the summer, she’s also busy with different programs. She’s a wonder woman and one of the hugest role models in my life.
Here’s how my summer went:

June 12-30, I supervised at the CHAMPS (Careers in Health and Medical Professions) program at Cleveland State University. This three-week summer camp provides high school students with skills and knowledge about health/medicine through hands-on activities like labs and field trips. I LOVED being with CHAMPS!

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The link to my comprehensive blog post on CHAMPS is here:

July 3-7, I participated in and helped execute a NEOMED-sponsored Academic Boot Camp at Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in Cleveland near University Circle and my high school. This camp involved financial literacy (taught by a credit strategist), ACT tutoring, math and science teaching, as well as leadership training. I learned a lot during this short week. High school and college students could attend this event. We had majority high school students, mostly rising juniors and seniors, and about five rising college freshmen. I was the only college sophomore present.

The financial literacy instructor Mrs. Murphy-Williams was phenomenal and extremely effective in getting her messages across to us! I could actually listen to her talk about finances for hours. She just has a voice and charisma that draws your attention. From her, I learned that everyone has a brand. It’s how people perceive them or remember them by. I believe my brand is that I am sweet, determined and hardworking. Many people, especially those close to me, have described me using these traits.
My elevator speech (a quick way to introduce myself) would most likely resemble this:

Hello, my name is Melinda. I am a rising sophomore at The Ohio State University studying Public Health with a Sociology specialization and a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
I am an ambitious go-getter who always wants to help others. I tend to be competitive but my drive is so strong and I never procrastinate. I’m a person who can be relied on to get the job done.
I am passionate about equity and access to high quality, affordable healthcare and education for all. My goals are to reduce racism/discrimination and health disparities, and prevent poverty. I want to improve lives for people worldwide. My future goals also include obtaining my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Health Behavior and Health Promotion in five years.

Mrs. Murphy provided us with so much valuable information – a sheet with 50 of the most common interview questions and booklets relating to credit history/scores and background checks. We also had sheets about budgeting.
Furthermore, this pro directed us to collect all coins we had, even the disrespected pennies in society – they add up over time!

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Edutopia clip art relating to financial literacy – Save and make more money than what you spend.

Her plethora of tips are listed below:

* Don’t share personal info. Don’t put out your birthday for others to know and use against you to steal your identity!
*A credit card is part of your brand.
*Everyone you meet is secretly interviewing you. First impressions matter so much!

* Avoid payday loans if you can.
* Don’t spend money faster than you make it.
* Credit is not about how much you have, it’s about WHO you have credit with.
* Have a beneficiary card or Upon Death card with your bank so that your account money can go to your loved ones (younger sibling or parents or children) and not the state.
* Never co-sign or be on your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner’s plan for anything. Money and love should be separate. Good advice!
* Be careful with your debit card. Leave it at home if you do not have a purpose for using it. Carrying it around makes you more inclined to buy.
* Don’t keep all your personal information in one place, like your purse. If that’s stolen, then you lose everything.
* Make sure your voicemail message, email address and signature, and social media accounts are appropriate and represent you well. Employers and schools check your presence online!
* Do things for other people so that they can do things for you one day.
* Do things that matter, and know what you want.
* Every 12 months, check your free three credit reports using
Other tips she had were to bring a can opener to your college dorm and to have a side-hustle (selling $1 water bottles at games).

Another component of the camp was leadership training; people from Effective Leadership Academy (, which has impacted over 15,000 students.

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It’s headquartered in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. This week, ELA had three college interns and one staff person come to the camp. I was skeptical of the effectiveness of ELA because I initially assumed it would involve cheesy ice-breakers and would not offer me any important skills. However, I did gain some soft skills and the activities were not a torture. Through the activities, I explored my values and my views about myself and the world. The interactive sessions involved games and worksheets. Some topics covered were self-empowerment, growth mindset, embracing change, reflecting on values, and interpersonal and communication skills.
I learned about ego and a communication rule: 7% of the words I say matters compared to 38% tone of voice, and 55% nonverbal body language. This means that body language is crucial in relaying your messages across to others.

*Tip* To get someone to like you more, try to mirror their body language. Leaning forward towards the person you’re talking with also shows that you’re interested in the conversation.

Another topic that resonates with me is the concept of pushing outside your boundaries and stretching yourself. There’s the comfort zone that we all know; we tend to stick to people like us and have habits such as sitting in the same seat for a class. However, if we stay in the same area and never explore or take risks, we won’t grow. The stretch zone is also called the growth zone. It’s about trying new things. When you push yourself too far, you can reach the panic zone, which can turn out poorly. For example, let’s say that a timid person remains comfortable not speaking out and staying in the corner of the room. He/she can enter the stretch zone by chatting up a classmate sitting next to him/her. They might not be ready to be in front of a crowd of strangers, which could lead to them running out the room or fainting. As I enter adulthood, I am in my growth zone for many area, such as being in a new city and learning how to succeed in college.

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Another way to learn about yourself is to do a SWOT analysis. This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Something interesting we did involved ethical decision making. The college students and I were told to imagine that we were on a boat which had a hole in it, and there was just one life preserver, with a rope attached to it. Only one person can be using the life preserver, and one person using the rope. This taught us more about each other and how we analyze situations, especially when it comes to who lives and who dies.

One of my favorite parts of ELA was when we did a cube personality test.
The link and any videos titled “Cube Personality Test” would have the same layout. This takes just five minutes of imagining and then the answers reveal surprising knowledge about ourselves. For me, the test was accurate!

The other favorite moment in ELA was when they provided us with a keychain holder that had five blank papers. They are for you to write quotes on. The ELA instructors told us a story of how a boy who went through one of their programs carried this keychain for 3 years, and on the day of his high school graduation, he pulled the keychain out of his pocket and gave it to the founder of ELA. The program changed his life and kept him focused. Therefore, I will maintain a record of motivational quotes so I can continue on my path to greatness and not lose faith in myself either.

A couple of key concepts of Organic Chemistry

The science and math tutor and ACT prep teacher was Ms. McClay. She taught the high school students on preparing for the ACT and some basic chemistry knowledge. For the 6 college students in the camp, she had us research science careers or how we could incorporate science into our careers. We also covered some hours of Organic Chemistry material, specifically carbon structures. We took a pop quiz on it as well.

The college students put on a skit directed by Ms. McClay, and the performance revolved around a 21-year-old patient’s recent admission to the ER and how the visit lead to the discovery of other issues in his life and a diagnosis of a mental illness as well as diabetes. We played the roles of doctor, public health nurse, psychiatrist, social workers, and case manager, while Ms. McClay played the patient’s girlfriend. The skit showed how several factors contribute to a person’s health, and impact how they receive treatment. For example, the patient was a Jehovah’s Witness, and other issues he had were impulsivity, reckless driving, suicidal tendencies, and more. He could never hold a job for very long, and he just came out of a long relationship with a girlfriend, and also had strained relations with his family. We were not trying to portray anyone in particular – this character was entirely made up! It could be possible that there are some individuals in real life like the patient in our skit. It helped to remind us that we cannot see someone’s struggles just by glimpsing at them. There could be a myriad of issues they’re going through. This is what I will try to do when I am a healthcare/public health professional.

Sharing our knowledge and reflecting on our experiences

Every day before camp ended, Ms. Johnson asked us all to sit in a circle and reflect on the day. “Share some knowledge! What did you get out of this?”
At the end of the week, Ms. Johnson surprised the high school and college students with backpacks filled with school supplies! Loose-leaf paper, highlighters, black pens, colored pens, mechanical pencils, folders, a notebook, a water bottle, a USB flash drive, and index cards! I was amazed at how this camp provided us with so much. Ms. Johnson asked NEOMED for the funds to have this summer camp since it can help reach youth and allow them to better themselves.

School supply stash! I am so thankful.

July 10-20, participate in activities including art therapy, daily discussions, implementing SOLE mode, community health work training, and more.
Daily duties include helping with set up and clean up of activity areas, completing timesheets, tracking attendance, and helping other participants with any issues.

July 10 – Cleveland State University
– We completed a SOLE session. (SOLE stands for Self Organized Learning Environment). We broke out into groups to answer the question: “What are your roles and duties as a citizen in your community, and what are the influences of your roles and duties?” Each group has a few minutes to dissect the question and then find at least two sources and statistics to back up their findings. We had a great discussion.

– We later watched videos from the documentary People Like Us. One episode was about Tammy Crabtree’s family living in poverty in Waverly, Ohio, a rural village. It’s so saddening to witness people in terrible conditions, living without heat or transportation. Tammy had to walk 10.5 miles to work. She had no car or working furnace at home. Furthermore, her kids did not seem to appreciate how she struggled to make ends meet and feed them. Then outside sources intervened to alleviate some of the family’s burdens. This lead to an exploration of rural poverty and discussion of whether my peers felt sorry for Tammy or felt like she deserved it.

Watch these two videos to see Tammy’s story:

– Norman Rockwell photo interpretation followed by art therapy

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Next, we looked at a Norman Rockwell painting. The facilitator Anita Iveljic (Hiram Class of 2014 and now AmeriCorps Associate Director at NEOMED) guided our discussion. She asked about what we observed in the print. Then she asked how we felt, and why the artist may have made this piece.  The Problem We All Live With, an oil on canvas from 1964, captures Ruby Bridges being walked to school by four U.S. marshals. We discussed that racism is still a prevalent issue today, but it’s more subtle than in the ’60s. We all have prejudices, but not inherently, and there’s widespread implicit bias as well. We learn about stereotypes in media and in conversations overheard when we were little. Hopefully, in America, race will no longer be a divide between people.

To end the day,  we used oil pastels, watercolor pastels, and paints to draw a portrait of a partner in the room. I am always welcome to art therapy but it was a challenge to draw a person. However, my partner said that I did a good job and she liked how I drew her.

July 11 – Cleveland State University

– Overview of Upcoming Trip
– Reading of story
While I do not recall the title of this story, although I am sure it is fictional, the summary is that a woman lost her husband in a tragic accident (murdered by someone who stole his car when the husband simply wanted to help an elderly woman with a flat tire). The 33-year-old deceased man’s organs: cornea, heart, pancreas, and more, went to various places around Texas, and to a total of eight individuals. The woman felt utterly empty and sought the person who now possessed the husband’s heart. Coincidentally, this transplant recipient was also 33 and she mails this person back and forth, because all she wanted to do was to listen to the beating heart for an hour. It was a touching story.

Hiram Excursion Trip – July 12 to July 14

This rural educational experience trip was overseen and supported by the NEOMED HPAC Program, the HRSA HCOP grant, and AmeriCorps. The purpose was to expand professional and educational growth through lab experience, scientific discussions, and learning about rural culture, while experiencing a movie and campfire s’mores.

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We stayed at East Hall for three days, two nights.

Wednesday, 7/12  
– Campus Tour of Hiram College
– Lunch (all you can eat)
– Hiram Lab Experience in Gerstacker Science Hall
We split up into two rooms because there were a lot of students. We extracted DNA from cheek cells and also from our saliva, and used these in tests to analyze our genetic diversity. We used PCR (polymerase chain reaction) amplification and electrophoresis. Specifically, we looked at the Pv92 sequence presence or absence in our genomes! You are either +/+ if both parents gave you this, +/- if one parent gave you a Pv92, or -/-, if neither of them did.

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From Bio-Rad Pv92 Informatics Kit

This lab took hours to complete because the procedure was complex, involving pipettes, tubes, micro centrifuges, and other equipment. Sadly, not a lot of students’ results appeared, most likely because there were errors during the experiment. Mine showed up though; I was +/+. According to the handout we received, people of Asian ancestry were more likely to have positive (+) allele frequencies. For example, 86% Chinese, 80% Filipino, 84% Java, and 90% of Taiwanese have the + allele. In comparison, the chart on our packet also showed that people of European origins are more likely to have the negative (-) allele; 18% for Euro-Americans, 10% for German, 12% for Hungarian, 18% for Syrian and 20% for Swiss. This was all very interesting, but I wish I understood more about the material.

– Bioethics Dilemma Prep

We were provided with a packet of articles relating to athletes using enhancements such as inhaling xenon gas or blood doping to improve performance. Steroids, injecting hormones, or living/training in high altitude environments help with strength or red oxygen cell formation. The various essays offered insights on the issue from experts and former athletes themselves. Is the use of these various methods cheating and therefore unfair? What qualifies as fairness? I learned about how one side supports the fact that all athletes should have wide access to the same drugs, so the playing field is level. However, critics claim that if all drugs were allowed, there’d be pressures on the athletes to use them. Some say that athletes should have the same opportunities to use drugs, and then their use can be optimized. According to one author, we should invest in developing safer forms of enhancement since people are going to continue using them anyways.

– Dinner
– Biomedical Humanities Discussion

The entire camp group came together to discuss what we believed were fair and unfair ways to enhance athletic performance. I personally think that living or training at high altitude environments are fair. Things like low oxygen tents or blood transfusions require thousands of dollars. This is a waste of money to me; people are in need of blood everyday. We even heard about abortion doping; women runners reportedly aborted their babies before races, while they benefitted from the extra red blood cells in their bodies. This is ridiculous and inhumane.

– Chopped! S’mores Competition
We divided campers into groups of eight people to get together and create s’mores that were healthy and creative. They could use four ingredients off of our provided list, which had 26 ingredients. They could pick from Nutella, wow butter, cream cheese, vanilla chips, powdered sugar, soft tortillas, green apples, sour brite octopus, air head extremes, pineapples, and mangos, to name some from the list. Then 15 minutes before they were supposed to present their concoctions, the staff members introduced to each group their secret ingredients.

– Campfire
Outside, each group presented their s’mores to the five judges. We had 10 groups total, and some groups stuck with the traditional graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallows. Almost all used fruit in their s’mores as well. In the end, Groups B and E won. Their prizes were Hiram Health water bottles.

Thursday, 7/13 
– Breakfast
– Middlefield Cheese Co-Op Visit

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Elmer was the employee that greeted us and gave us an overview of the operation. He actually helped build the factory. I learned a lot and saw what it’s like to make cheese. There are about 18-20 employees and 70+ farmers, who are 98% Amish. The cows that provide the milk all have names, and milk is delivered in jugs. The cheese is made by hand in open vats. No artificial growth hormones are used.
(More information on the co-op can be found here:

– Amish Farm Visit
Dan Chardon in Middlefield, OH is a mutual connection of a Hiram or NEOMED worker. He allowed us to visit his farm, which he said was 70 acres of land. He has six kids, who were adorable and quiet. While they did not talk, they watched us and followed us around as Dan showed us city folks a tour. We were as curious of the family as they were about us.

Dan presented his 40,000 pieces of garlic he had picked over three days. They could be sold for $15,000! What a whopping harvest! The farmer also butchers deer; he does not hunt them, but people bring them in to him. He raises livestock as well: chickens, sheep, and horses. I believe he said there’s 300 sheep, and the lambs are eventually sold and separated from their families. The horses are used only for transportation purposes, not for riding on, but for pulling the carriages. Also, the eggs of the chickens are sold. Although he makes minimum wage, he does not complain; he is comfortable and happy with his life. The students asked what he did in his free time, and he replied that he did not have much. Most of his time was spent on the farm. There was always something to do.

The Amish life was meaningful to Dan because three or four generations of his family lived on the land. He attended a private school until eighth grade, and a kid muttered to herself why Dan did not continue to high school. Actually after age 13/14, vocational training begins, and that’s when the individual pursues their craft or skilled trade. Amish people can have jobs in carpentry, farming, etc. The Amish lifestyle is interesting and is simple. Some kids did not understand and called it weird. Dan did not condemn the outside world for using technology or electricity. He respects us, just like we should respect them. Personal questions I had written and did not get to ask were “Has the Amish community decreased? Do you hear much about the outside world?” We all clapped and thanked Dan for our tour and departed for Hiram College.

– Lunch
– Water Balloon Battle
Hundreds of water balloons lay in containers out on an open playing field near the dorms we were staying in. This was optional, but about several dozen students participated. They brought their own Nerf guns and Super Soakers. We had plenty of photos of the battle. The kids had fun. Those who did not partake had free time to go to the gym or remain in their dorm. A student and I did walking and jogging around the track circling the football field.

– Dinner
– Stress relief therapies (mindfulness, music therapy, art therapy, pet, yoga, drum circle)

Plans had to be changed regarding this activity; many speakers cancelled, so we only had a mindfulness speaker, but she captured everyone’s focus and I truly enjoyed being with her. Rebecca Reynold is a health coach, certified drugless practitioner, certified Thai massage practitioner, and a raw and vegan lifestyle educator. Based in the Lakewood area of Cleveland, she also does women’s retreats and much more.

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Being mindful is different than having your mind full. Free yourself and just be in the moment. Do not think about the past or future, but focus on the present. Photo from

She began our session by rubbing peppermint oil on our wrists and telling us to smell them. We were then directed through imagining something we wanted. We kept our eyes closed during this. We had to picture what we wanted. What did we look like when we eventually obtained what we wanted? How did we feel? What were we envisioning? Then she said to imagine us receiving an award stating that we deserved what we received. Some students shared their goals of obtaining careers. Another boy dreamed of having a sports car. I went through the activity too, and I dreamed of finding love and true happiness, and the public health career and traveling the world appeared after.

We learned about an artist who looks into people’s eyes as a performance art. For one piece, in 2010, Marina Abramovic sat in a chair at a museum and people lined up, to the point that the line stretched outside the museum, to sit across from her and have her stare into their eyes. This can be a few minutes to even 40 minutes. She looked into 1,500+ people’s eyes. This is incredible. A shattering moment was when Ms. Abramovic had her head down as she always does before an art patron sits down. When she felt someone take a seat across from her, she gazed upwards and tears flowed down her eyes soon after, because she was looking at a former lover of hers that she’d seen decades ago. Hearing this story touched me. The campers were asked themselves, if brave enough, to look into someone else’s eyes, for three minutes, and then share what they learned about their partner from just observing.

Next, we discussed and practiced doing a few ancient mudras. When we do a peace sign with our pointer and middle fingers, that’s a mudra. Furthermore, from Ms. Reynolds, I learned that energy is like a boomerang. She told us that she was 5 foot 7 in the seventh grade. She was already taller than most of her teachers, and was called Big Bird and Tree Woman during her childhood. When we exhibit anger and hate, we will get it in return. That is why we cannot allow our negative energy to linger. Our session was just an hour and it was too soon. The kids really enjoyed being with her as well.

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The Buddha is doing the mudra of No Fear. Sometimes He is portrayed having both hands up.

Here are Rebecca Reynolds’ websites to find out more about her.

– Movie with Discussion
We watched a movie that was planned to have a discussion along with it, but this did not happen. Gattaca is a 1997 sci-fi, drama, and thriller movie. The plot summary provided by IMDB:

Gattaca Corp. is an aerospace firm in the future. During this time society analyzes your DNA and determines where you belong in life. Ethan Hawke’s character was born with a congenital heart condition which would cast him out of getting a chance to travel in space. So in turn he assumes the identity of an athlete who has genes that would allow him to achieve his dream of space travel.

Friday, 7/14 
– Breakfast
– Check-out
– Tour of NEOMED
I have been to NEOMED three times before. I have fond memories here. It was fortuitous to me that I saw an incoming med student there who actually spoke to me at my high school a few years ago while he served in AmeriCorps. He’s now starting medical school. He looked familiar and then I saw his name tag, and indeed it was the same guy. I should have wished him kind words and good luck for school, but I did not stop to talk to him.

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NEOMED new campus

– Back to Cleveland State University for the Summer Internship Celebration
– Lunch
– Speeches
– Videos of Amish Farm trip and Water Balloon Fight were played.

A post assessment evaluation will be emailed to us, asking us about how our experiences went.


The five weeks being with NEOMED were short. I had a splendid time with CHAMPS and the other camps/excursions in July offered me new perspectives on underserved communities. This was also my first time being a camp counselor (supervising people on an overnight visit.) I was responsible for knowing the whereabouts and activity of the four girls in my suite. Other supervisors had to handle six kids, or even another group altogether in addition to their own. I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses. An example of how I employed professionalism and maturity is when I put the girls’ needs above my own. One of them forgot her jacket in the dorm, and I finished my dinner abruptly to let her into the dorm across the street from the dining hall. Supervisors are the only ones with keys to the building and the suite. I have to listen to them and if they are not comfortable with something, I have to try to help them feel safe.

Overall, the girls I had were easy to get along with, and posed no major issues. An issue I personally had was not being in the camp counselor group chat, which included the program/camp coordinators. Sometimes the supervisors themselves were not sure of what was happening because the schedule was adjusted if we finished an activity early or events are cancelled. There was confusion but we went with the flow.

A huge challenge was the loud, disrespectful campers. On multiple occasions, we reminded them to be quiet and listen when a speaker is talking, yet they did not obey. I often heard cursing from a few people, such as on the bus and around the college. People continued to talk during the movie too. Additionally, some did not keep hands and feet to themselves; I noticed girls lounging in a chair with their feet on the wall or on a school bus with their feet dangling over the top of the seat. I was frustrated and enervated. But they are high school students, and rowdiness and hyperactivity is expected. I actually played the game of Telephone with the other Cleveland campers.

Another problem was when I had to clean up scraps of candy wrappers left over from the children’s messes. When it was time to check out of the dorms, I did a final sweep of the suite, and noticed leftover water bottles and granola bars. We had to leave the room in the exact same condition as it was when we entered the dorm. Even though I conveyed to my suite-mates that I was sorry for being a bad supervisor since the camp was not going as smoothly as expected, and that I myself was unsure of what to do at times, they said it’s 50/50, meaning that both sides have to put in effort.

I did enjoy my experience at Hiram College and NEOMED. While I wasn’t the best supervisor, and also possibly the least experienced, I am glad to have been a part of the camp. I got to walk my suite-mates around Hiram to our various scheduled events. The knowledge about Amish people and rural life will carry with me during my career. I want to help ensure that people in the country also receive quality healthcare, which can be problematic since they’re surrounded by fields of corn or wheat or cows. They could be miles away from a primary care provider. There also may not be a grocery store nearby. When we went to NEOMED in Rootstown, Ohio, gas stations and convenience stores, along with a smattering of pizza parlors, were lining the main road. It’s a different way of life in this rural area, and I want to gain more experience working with the rural populations in the future. A possible entry-level job for me can be Community Health Worker. My desire to work with a variety of people and travel the planet still remains strong after these past few months.

I hope to positively impact my people of Ohio.

CHAMPS: Careers in Health and Medical Professions

In June 2017, I had the opportunity to work with the 2017 cohort of CHAMPS: Careers in Health and Medical Professions, a three-week long academically enriching summer institute held at Cleveland State University. Cleveland residents and 1st ring high school students of Cleveland are able to participate at no cost to them, thanks to the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and The Cleveland Foundation. Founded in 2009, CHAMPS is “an academic and skills-based program designed for high school students who are interested in professional careers in the medical and/or health fields.”

Cleveland State University photograph of its Student Center

Students in the summer cohorts build awareness of medical and health careers while increasing their science and math knowledge. CHAMPS improves college readiness and sharpens the students’ personal skills through the hands-on activities and interaction with students from other high schools, teachers, college professors, and career professionals in a college laboratory setting. The 2017 program officially began June 12th and would last until June 30. Each of the 24 students would receive a $650 stipend after completing the program! Coming into CHAMPS, I was hopeful that I would serve as a great role model for the high school students and complete my duties efficiently and diligently. My position was being a college mentor and assisting the teachers and students. The camp was from 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday.

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The fun and learning does not cease after the program ends each summer! There are four Academic Year Follow Up
meetings for the students to participate in as well. Students have engaged in activities such as first aid & CPR training,
and learned about immunology and the different body systems.
This year, the research revolved around testing and evaluating the effectiveness of various spice extracts and
their antibacterial effects. These would then be compared to effects of known antibiotics. Students would review
scholarly articles, write a paper, and present their findings to the rest of the cohort. The students were divided
randomly into six groups, each group studying either garlic, cinnamon, clove, ginger, cumin, or turmeric for the
three weeks. They would do a lot of the research independently and collaborate together to present as the six groups
at the end-of-program banquet/luncheon. This banquet would be open to their families and teachers to attend.
In charge of the program is Dr. Ferguson. He has three high school teachers facilitate the lessons/lectures: Mr. Keller,
Ms. Stuhm, and Ms. Girard. There were two student workers, Jackie, and Jemima, and then two AmeriCorps members
named Constantine and Stephanie, who plan to attend medical school in the future! I was assistant also and got to
interact with the teens and accompany them on the field trips.




Summer Curriculum

Week One

  • Monday: Administrative Tasks, Team Building, Spice Research, Antibiotic Research
    • This day was spent doing icebreakers and introductions and getting students settled into the program. Drawstring backpacks containing journals, pencils, pens, post-it notes, and a ruler were given so students could keep lab notebooks and remain organized during their activities. In the afternoon, they read articles about antibiotics and resistance to gain background on the topics for the institute. Each of the six groups presented to the class about their specific article.

      This was one aisle of the lab we were in. There were about four aisles total.

  • Tuesday: Aseptic Technique Intro, Agar Preparation
    • Students received their own lab coats and neon biohazard safety goggles and were able to begin the hands-on lab activities. Each group chose a spice to study. They also prepared agar using beakers, graduated cylinders, petri dishes, hot plates, and heat gloves. This can be an hours-long process to boil, but the students were patient. Agar is a medium that can be used to grow microbe cultures.

      Cart full of flasks containing agar

      Boiling the agar

  • Wednesday: Broth Media Preparation, Spice Extract Preparation
    • Students continued with their experiments using their group’s spice. I witnessed them pounding their spice using mortar and pestle, and then pouring over it using water and mixing it with a type of alcohol until it got to a consistency of a Slushy drink.

      Which spice is this?

      They then poured this into a funnel and over a filter to get it into a beaker.

      A colorful array

      They poured their agar onto plates, like the one shown.

      Photo is from Wiki Commons

    • We also attended a talk/Q&A session with Dr. Sonja Harris-Haywood, M.D. and M.S., who is a very distinguished and diligent professional! I learned that it’s not about natural gifts or intelligence; a lot of efforts can be obtained through GRIT. She struggled with dyslexia, which lead to difficulties especially in English classes, but her competitiveness helped her overcome this. She forced herself to keep at it and not give up because her passion was medicine. I had to leave early but I am glad the students got to hear about her experiences and how some bad grades do not determine someone’s worth or mean that they are automatically excluded from success. Even failing all her classes freshman year, she turned it all around.
      (Read more about her here:

      Dr. Harris-Haywood telling us about how GRIT got her places

  • Thursday: Bacterial inoculations, OT lab experience
    • We inoculated broth media and used the bacteria: e. Coli, staphylococcus epidermidis, enterococcus faecalis, and klebsiella pneumonia. Afterwards, students researched the morphology, habitat, transmission, symptoms, and treatment of each bacteria. CHAMPS has our own collection of MacBook’s for the students to use!
    • We attended a session with an Occupational Therapist! Dr. Keptner has a Ph.D. in epidemiology and biostatistics, and has had experience in hospitals, schools, and other places. She has worked with people of all ages, and people who committed criminal offenses, who were injured at work, or suffer from mental illnesses. This was my first time meeting an OT and learning what the field is all about! I learned an enormous amount about what the work entails as well as what innovations are available to improve people’s lives and help them with functioning tasks like eating, sleeping, using the restroom, etc. I was left amazed at how this field is so versatile and influential.

      “OT, OT, is never much love when we go OT” – Drake


  • Friday: Plate spreading, adding extract to plates, serial dilutions
    • This day was the most lab-heavy (we spent all day in the lab in our disposable lab coats and goggles). Students did serial microbiology, spread plates, and added their spice extracts and antibiotics to these plates. I was more involved in going around to each group to assist them through the over 20 step procedures.

      A kid was amazed that I knew most of the 24 students’ names already! Honestly, it was not that hard to learn their names; plus, it make anyone feel special when someone knows their name. We accomplished so much this day. On Monday, we will be checking to see where and in which Petri dishes the bacteria grew, and if the students’ hypotheses were correct for whether a spice or an antibiotic would have more antimicrobial activity than the other.

      A microbiology lab at CSU

      Listening to and watching the teacher demonstrate is very important. This is in our normal lab room.

Week Two

  • Monday: Dittrick Medical Museum, Creating Data Tables, Measuring Zone of Inhibit, Research Paper Intro, PT Lab Experience
    • First thing in the morning, we took our first field trip to the Dittrick Museum of Medical History, located on Case Western Reserve University’s campus. I LOVED the museum! It’s filled with images, artifacts, rare books, and archives. The walls are super thick because the architects/builders wanted to ensure these items wouldn’t be harmed from explosions/bombs back in the day. We went up an ornate staircase, where we saw two massive paintings of Greek gods/goddesses.

      The beginning of our tour of the Dittrick Medical History Museum

      The CHAMPS cohort, minus Dr. Ferguson, and Jackie and Jemima
      Photo credit: Ms. Girard
      Bottom row in the middle are Constantine and I

      Next were rooms of books, and some students were there studying (most likely medical students). A Research Associate named Dr. Brandy gave us a tour and provided us with valuable information about how medicine has come a long way. I could tell she was so passionate about what she does, because she kept us engaged and hanging on her every word! We learned about the origins of defibrillators and stethoscopes. We learned about how/why contraceptives were banned and that literature about it was seen as obscene. I was amazed at everything, and I will definitely return to continue looking at the artifacts here. Some parts of the museum were interactive, like a four-panel touch-screen TV wall. The galleries range from diagnostic instruments to doctor’s offices in 1870s and 1930s to surgery to hospital medicine, and much more. It’s FREE to the public so please check it out!!

      Source URL:

    • In the afternoon, students reviewed their petri dishes and measured in millimeters the Zone of Inhibition, or the area where there is no growth of bacteria. I helped a few groups figure out how to measure and record the data into their lab journals. Some growth was peculiar and I was instructed to call this “experimental error.”

      Me examining a student’s petri dish’s growth of bacteria

      This student group calls themselves the Professional Savages, but they’re actually the sweetest bunch of kids.

      One of my favorite parts of this job is the students and their unique personalities.

    • We then went to the Center for Innovations in Medical Professions building down the street from us at CSU and interacted with Doctor of Physical Therapy students and staff! We saw and got to touch different aids like walkers and crutches, and balanced on different balances (some square shaped, some circular, and some were foam mats). We also got into wheelchairs to test our maneuverability in an obstacle course.

      Physical therapy – for athletes, the disabled, the elderly, and more


  • Tuesday: NEON Medical Center Visit, Effect of Drugs Lab
    • In the morning, we visited Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, Inc. (NEON Health Services) at one of their seven locations, in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland. They are a Federally Qualified Health Center and  provide accessible, community-based health care in a sensitive, caring environment. There’s dental services, family medicine, primary care, optometry, pharmacy, podiatry, nutrition and behavioral health. Everyone was friendly to us and welcomed us warmly to NEON.

      Ms. Saleem, a very animated, friendly woman who one CHAMPS participant said reminded him of his grandmother, to her face

      We were greeted by a provider relations manager, health administration intern, pre-med student, and diabetes empowerment program coordinator. After an introduction about the facility, we learned about the Ohio Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative from Ms. Saleem, a Centering Pregnancy Coordinator. She talked with us about infant mortality, including in Cuyahoga County, and she shed light on the subject and I found out that in 44128 (Warrensville Heights), the rate for infant mortality was especially high for African American babies. This can be attributed to multiple factors like families being higher up on the career ladder experiencing more stress and pressure from jobs, and from racial discrimination from healthcare providers.

      Centering Pregnancy room at NEON-Hough. It’s a group setting so pregnant women bond with each other while coming in for their exams.

      Additionally, we learned what a Baby Box is. Ms. Saleem asked us many questions so we would play an active part in the discussion and retain this information better! Later we heard from Mr. White, Daddy Boot Camp coordinator, and he was extremely funny while relaying his information. We took a tour of the health center; I saw some adult medicine waiting rooms, the Centering Pregnancy room in the basement, and an X-ray room. It never ceases to amaze me that I learn a great deal each day I am with CHAMPS!

      The baby box is multi-purpose. It carries supplies but can also serve as a bed for the baby, which comes in handy especially when being transported between parents and to caregivers like grandparents’ homes. Also, some people cannot afford cribs.

    • The afternoon comprised of an Effects of Drugs lab, in our chemistry lab classroom. Each of the six groups were given a different drug, such as aspirin, caffeine, adrenaline, lactic acid, and nicotine. We used live organisms: brine shrimp, or daphnia (basically sea monkeys) to test the effects of the drug on their body systems. The students measured how many times a shrimp subject would flap its appendages for 30 seconds, and do this for a total of three trials. They multiplied this number to get the number of beats per 60 seconds. This would serve as the baseline, for comparison. After adding the drug, they counted how many times their shrimp flapped, for 30 seconds, and multiplying it for 60 seconds. They then recorded the increase or decrease in beats per 30 seconds and for 60 seconds. They also found the averages for this data. Sadly, many of the shrimp died, as their lifespan is incredibly short.

      Daphnia (Rest in Peace)

  • Wednesday: Center for Innovations in Medical Professions (CIMP) Building Tour
    • The entire morning, we spent in the CIMP building at CSU, which opened in 2015 and is 100,000 square feet. It cost $47 million to complete.

      Outside view of the Center of Innovations in Medical Professions building, in the center of CSU’s campus

      We heard from a nurse, an audiologist, and speech-hearing pathologist. We watched videos about these three career fields. We also toured part of the building, which truly is a work of art. It’s a hub of activity because there’s nurse simulation labs here, as well as a health & wellness clinic that all students and staff can access. Furthermore, there’s a healthy café, speech & hearing clinic, OT/PT rooms, Distance Learning rooms, meeting rooms, and quiet study areas.

      Audiologist and speech & hearing pathologist!

      It was exciting to visit the audiology rooms and speech-hearing therapy rooms as well as to hear about some experiences the professionals had that make their work worthwhile.

      An audiology testing area

      We stopped by an audiology therapy room, which has a ball pit (one child patient can only focus and cooperate when in the ball pit) and also a tall cylindrical lamp that contains water and changes colors (this helps kids focus, too.)

      A therapeutic room for all ages

      We visited one training room where a man in the CSU-NEOMED (Northeast Ohio Medical University) Partnership program spoke to us about blood pressure. Two students checked their blood pressure. The ideal number is 120/80.

      A nursing simulation lab with a realistic, responsive mannequin boy with ‘flushed red cheeks’

      We went into a nursing simulation lab, which had over a handful of mannequins (they do not like being called dummies.) Only two mannequins were specialized and much more technological. They could sweat and cry as if they were real! A voice (the nursing instructor) could emit from their mouths. The eyes could open and close. It was very fascinating. These mannequins are extremely heavy and costly. The nursing program here truly strives to make this setting as realistic as they can for the students to learn and treat the patients. For example, to create a foul smell from a wound, the instructor would combine parmesan juice and lemon juice, I believe. They actually have a book with ‘recipes’ on how to construct different wounds and bodily fluids/acids.

      Additionally, we discussed the Iron Lung, which was a key invention that helped people suffering from polio. Iron lungs are no longer needed in this day, thanks to Jonas Salks’ vaccine for polio in 1955! The disease is basically eradicated completely. In one corner of the CIMP building is an iron lung, painted in a bright pastel yellow color. It suits its nickname “The Yellow Submarine.”

      Iron Lung, donated by MetroHealth Medical Center to the Center of Innovations in Medical Professions

      Overall, it was a wonderful tour that expanded my knowledge some more. For example, we were told the distinction between a BSN and RN. BSN is an academic degree while an RN is a license and depends on the state one practices in. Another fact/life tip was that if you have headphones on and cannot hear someone talk normally to you, your music/audio is too loud! In this century, more younger folks are experiencing hearing loss and may require aids because of their too loud tunes.

    • After lunch, students compiled their Effect of Drugs data into charts to discuss their findings with the rest of the cohort. The room was full of chatter and cooperation for the hour we had left for the day. I helped groups with their questions and designing their tables. They also wanted assistance in writing their hypotheses and conclusions. I was so happy to be of help, and I loved the conversations I was having with the students.

      Artsy lab picture by Jemima

  • Thursday: Epidemiology activity, research paper
    • The morning and early afternoon revolved around preparing to write their major research paper! The six groups of students would begin working on their research paper, which has seven parts to it: (1) The title page, (2) Abstract, (3) Background Information, (4) Methods, (5) Results, (6) Discussion, and (7) Reference Page. Mr. Keller informed them that Purdue Owl was their #1 resource when writing their paper. He told them about proper in-text citations. At least two graphs of data would also be required in the paper. Furthermore, credible sources like PubMed or articles from Google Scholar were needed; not every source can be trusted and therefore cited.

      Classroom 420

    • For an hour, we touched base on the fascinating earth-shattering field of epidemiology, which I am also considering as a career path. Ms. Stuhm began by having students write down as many infectious diseases as they could think of. She introduced what epidemiology was, which is more than just about infectious diseases. It involves being a ‘disease detective’, as she calls it, and finding out the sources causing an illness or health issue. Ms. Stuhm gave out an activity about John Snow investigating a cholera outbreak in London.
      John Snow, father of epidemiology

      One side of the room would be John Snow scientists who argued that contaminated water was the culprit, and the other side had scientists of the time who refused to accept new knowledge, and credited the ‘bad air’ for making people ill. After some brief group time, they came together for a debate! This debate was great, and involved a bunch of back-and-forth. Ms. Stuhm was impressed.

      Short video we watched for context on epidemiology

      So how did John Snow, a physician, pinpoint the source and solve the problem? He went house to house to ask people who were infected, and discovered that those living closest to the water wells were more sick than others who lived farther away. He found the one well that was doing the most damage and leaking to the rest of the water supply! At the end of the day, both sides provided good arguments, and it was a tie.

      Debate moderated by Ms. Stuhm


  • Friday: Microbiology lab, gram staining, CIMP building nurse discussion
    • In the morning, we were back in the microbiology lab to do gram staining of their bacteria to determine if they were gram positive, which would show up as purple on their microscope slide, or gram negative. which would be a pink color. The procedure for this required 23 materials and was the most complicated lab these students would encounter during CHAMPS. We learned the three basic shapes for bacteria: cocci (circular or clusters of circles), rod-shape, or spiral-shape.

      Me assisting a group who call themselves Dub Nation

      Even I was nervous while helping the students because we had to follow the steps exactly and we had to know what we were doing. We also could not feel rushed or else our results could be jeopardized. I accidentally told the students the wrong thing to use, so they had to start over. If I am unsure I must double-check with a teacher first before telling the student.

      Bacteria comes in different shapes.

    • After a brief hour of working more on their research papers, we headed back to the Center of Innovations in Medical Professions building down the street to hear from two women, both with advanced degrees. One, Dr. Matthews, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice. All of her degrees, from Bachelors to Masters to DNP come from Cleveland State! Her biggest struggle in school was having support, because she lost her mom at age 18, and even a nursing professor doubted she’d make it through school. However, she persisted and achieved so much; she graduated summa cum laude from CSU.
      Another lady we talked to was from Nigeria. Dr. Adedipe has her Ph.D. in nursing, and loves teaching students. What I gained from this discussion is that motivation is a crucial part of succeeding; everyone has their own definition of success. Things will be hard, but will be worth it! Others, even family members and friends, may doubt or discourage you, but you listen to your own heart!

Week Three

  • Monday: College Prep Lecture, CPR Training Part I, Lamb Hearts, and CSU Campus Tour
    • The morning started off with a speaker, Ms. Nudell, from CSU, discussing college preparation with the kids. She asked them what internships have they had and which they did like, or disliked. What math classes were they taking? What college classes have they taken? She also provided them with papers relating to scholarships/financial aid and a college comparison chart to help them think carefully about their college choices. Some kids wanted to get out of the state, while others want to go to a big school.

      College prep lecture

    • We then went to the CIMP building for CPR training. We mostly watched videos and then had the chance to practice techniques for a choking individual.
    • Next, a familiar face came into the room. A former AmeriCorps member who I met when I was in high school and now current NEOMED employee Jonathan Tyes strolled in! He’s on his way to medical school to be an orthopedic surgeon. He demonstrated to us how to cut open lamb hearts (which he got from a Middle Eastern grocery store) and had the kids put on gloves and get in on the action! He asked what were the parts of the heart and how does blood circulate? He did not lecture us, but had us all engaged in the learning and critically thinking. Mr. Tyes is SO intelligent and kind; he’s one of my role models.

      Lamb hearts

    • After lunch, we had a Welcome to CSU overview by an admissions counselor. Then we toured CSU campus: the rec center, the Science building, Main Classroom, Student Center, Engineering College, and Fenn Tower! This was my first time seeing what some CSU dorms look like and they looked nice.

      Great admissions presentation by a CSU alumna


  • Tuesday: CPR Training Part II, more research paper writing
    • The kids spent more time working on their group research paper. I assisted some groups with editing, looking at references, and paper formatting. The teachers informed the class what they expected in terms of their PowerPoint presentation and announced the order in which the groups would go.
    • We finished our CPR training and we will receive our certifications in a week or two! We are trained in the differences when treating infants, children, and adults (anyone over age 12.) We can also use an AED. It went so well, and I feel confident in all of us being competent enough to save someone in need. This training can truly help a person’s life.

      The CPR instructors!


  • Wednesday: University Hospitals of Cleveland Visit
    • This was a busy day, but super fun! In the morning we heard from Ms. Okwudi, academic advisor for the CSU-NEOMED Partnership for Urban Health program. She spoke with us about health careers, and how vast it is. She showed us the website for the Occupational Outlook handbook
      Here is more information about CSU’s baccalaureate/M.D. program!
    • We embarked on another field trip, to University Hospitals! I was extremely eager to tour this facility and see what lay in store for us. CHAMPS met with the UH Health Scholars, a group of underrepresented African-American and Latino/Hispanic rising 8th graders and 9th graders interested in medicine. These Scholars are in a five-week intensive program and are assigned to one of nine medical disciplines, and they have research as well as a mentor in that area. This summer camp also provides students with transportation passes and meals! There’s field trips and hands-on learning, just like in CHAMPS! We were able to hear from an inspiring doctor and then over pizza, CHAMPS and the Health Scholars mingled to learn more about each other. After lunch, we went on a tour of UH, and were split up into groups. CHAMPS students were paired with the UH kids and along the way, CHAMPS kids talked to them about what high school would be like.We saw the Seidman Cancer Center and traveled next door to Case Western Reserve University, where we went into an auditorium to listen to a panel of two rising second-year medical students. These students were the valedictorians of their high schools and also were debt-free for their undergraduate education. In medical school, this was not the case for them; they have loans and are also burdened with classes for the day and studying for hours. It is not recommended to hold a job while in med school. However, the hard work and sacrifice pay off eventually.

      Madison captioned this pic in the CHAMPS group chat as “CHAMPS Mom & Me”

      I really was amazed when we visited UH – Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. The facility was so interesting and colorful; it really made me feel relaxed. Additionally, the rooftop garden, Angie’s Garden, was the most breathtaking scene for me. Attached is an indoor space called the Horticultural Therapy Suite. These resources can be therapeutic for the children cancer patients, as they can garden and get sunshine while overlooking the grounds and being able to see as far as Lake Erie from where they are! The garden has comfy rainbow-color plush or foam-like chairs as well as lawn chairs. This is a great relaxing area and I would want to come here if I was afflicted with illness as a child.

      Giraffe sculpture

  • Thursday: Research Paper Writing & PowerPoint Presentation, Physician Assistants
    • The entire morning, we spent on wrapping up our research papers and making tremendous progress on the PowerPoints. By tonight, all students need to finalize their work.
    • For an hour and a half, we went to the CIMP building to speak with a panel of five Physician Assistant students! After presenting on how to get to PA school and what the application looked like, they had three stations around the room: how to check vitals, the stethoscope technique, and hearing/auditory testing.

      Madison and I – Her suggested caption was “We pray for our enemies”

  • Friday: Luncheon and presentations
    • The culmination of our three weeks worth of work! In the morning, CHAMPS rehearsed our presentations. Shortly after, we went to Fenn Tower, third floor, for the banquet in the Ballroom! At least 130 people were on the RSVP list! Included were everyone we met during camp – the doctors, nurses, OTs, PTs, and other people who talked to us, even the UH Health Scholars.

      Everyone involved with CHAMPS is in this photo!

    • The banquet went by smoothly and quicker than expected. The six groups presented one right after the other. They were given certificates for completing CHAMPS as well as goodie bags (inside had a CSU shirt, thermos cup, mini stapler, and more). Everyone was dressed professionally. I felt pride in seeing their work. The lasagna, garlic bread, salad, eclairs, kebabs, and one of my students’ cupcakes made for a wonderful meal.
    • After the banquet, we had some students participate in focus groups, to gauge their thoughts on CHAMPS. This data would be transcribed and analyzed for future purposes in improving CHAMPS.

My experience with CHAMPS was enlightening. I learned more about interacting with youth. Although they were the ages of 15, 16, and 17, and I was only 19, I had to improve on how to talk to students. My listening and empathy skills were especially put to use on the second day when one student revealed to me the struggles she endured growing up, and how frustrated she was that no one was really there to support her. This rattled my core; I realized how brave she was for disclosing this to me, and that I have the power to help her go down the right path and not succumb to negatively-impacting behaviors. These students are the future; we as a society have to watch out for those who are at risk of not doing well because of the environments they’re in. Therefore, the most challenging part was learning how to reach out to students and keep them motivated and on-task. Some were on their phones when they were supposed to be working on their papers, but I used assertiveness. “I better see all laptops out.” “You can do this.” A few times I caught the same student falling asleep because she’s been deprived. I have woken her up when I see this occurring. Sometimes I feel like a teacher and not like a peer.

However, I do feel like I bonded with some teens. It takes time to get to know them, and for them to know me! A few students greeted me every time they saw me, which was pleasant. That shows they acknowledge and respect me! They asked me questions about my college background and my career plans. One asked what my hobbies were. All of the students were racial minorities (non-white) and were mostly from urban schools, including the high school that I graduated from. I could relate to the majority of the students in some ways, but in other ways, I could never fully understand what they have been through.

During the last week of CHAMPS, the students added me to their group chat on GroupMe. They call themselves Champers (#Champers2k17), and I was given the name #ChampsMom. This group chat is hilarious because the kids write their messages in the most sophisticated way they can, using rarer vocabulary words, and we keep this going no matter what.

As for my career skills, I gained or strengthened in youth development, professionalism, patience, responsibility, and of course, leadership! I was patient and calm when directing the students through the assignments. I arrived to work early each day and followed all rules. I never cursed or was rude to anyone. From CHAMPS, I learned that working with teens is an interest of mine. They can follow directions more than younger kids, and are more independent. Especially with these smart, polite teens, there was often no trouble during the program. I do hope that there are more summer programs like this to get youth interested in their lives and passionate about something!

A favorite part of my time with CHAMPS was getting the different field trip experiences, like the medical history museum (which I had no knowledge of its existence beforehand!). I benefitted from the lab experience, too. I learned about aseptic technique, and about the valuable resources right in Cleveland. I do not take anything for granted – my intelligence, or my privilege of obtaining a college education, for free.  I will continue to learn no matter where I am, at least one new piece of information a day.

I must acknowledge thanks to Dr. Ferguson, for creating CHAMPS, and for sharing corny one-liners with the class, and allowing me to be a part of CHAMPS.
Thank you to the teachers Mr. Keller, Ms. Stuhm, and Ms. Girard, who put into reality the activities and guided the students. They were funny and good role models.
Thanks to Stephanie and Constantine, who volunteered their time with the program when their schedules allowed them to.

Mr. Keller and Ms. Stuhm ready to do science!

Ms. Girard!

Thanks to Jemima and Jackie for their efforts in executing CHAMPS!
I appreciate CSU for providing the places for us to conduct our program in, and for the daily lunches for the students.
Thank you to NEOMED for your new building on campus, because it’s a huge resource for everyone.
I must give thanks to all of the places we visited/toured. Everyone learns from our visits.
Thanks to The Cleveland Foundation and Martha-Holden Jennings Foundation.

Thanks so much to the 24 CHAMPS students, who made me laugh, smile, and feel young still in my last year of being a teen. They all worked incredibly hard and demonstrated how much potential they had. It was heartwarming to see them blossom and grow in the program into more intelligent and more research- and science-savvy professionals. They constantly inquired about the world and asked the professionals we met about numerous facets of their work and life.

For more information please look at:
CHAMPS also has a Facebook page! Look up CHAMPS: Cleveland State University
To apply, there’s an application on their website (will likely be available January 2018 for that upcoming summer) and a good GPA and references are required.

Design Portfolio

This post showcases my graphic design and art skills. Many of these posters were creations for my high school (Cleveland Early College High School). For all of these, I used an app called PicCollage. It’s a free mobile app and easy to use! You can incorporate your own images and text as well as online images and videos! I also have begun using the website Canva! Art is one of my outlets, and using technology, I can create stunning visual pieces in half an hour.
Thanks to Apple for the vast array of emojis I incorporate into my art.
I plan to continue designing posters for my role as Social Media and Marketing Correspondent for MUNDO. I’ll be posting on Facebook and Twitter!
I do not see myself making a career out of this, but this is one of my hobbies!

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Note: I use other people’s artwork to make my posters, especially for the backgrounds. I only do this to raise awareness about school events and fundraisers, and do not intend to profit from them.

Freshman Year Timeline

Fall 2016

  • Participated in 3-week early arrival program in summer to prepare for college and move into dorm early
  • Joined MUNDO and Global Health Initiative
  • Worked part-time at College of Public Health as Student Assistant
  • Applied for and was only freshman accepted to MUNDO alternative winter-break week-long trip to Los Angeles
  • Attended first football game with President Drake and Board of Trustees in the University Suite, for free
  • Became a Young Scholars Ambassador for the Young Scholars Program to do outreach for younger Young Scholars. I called 12th graders to discuss college and requirements with them.
  • Volunteered 20 hours at various blood drives and other service projects
  • Participated in the 2016 October walk for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. There were 2500 walkers, volunteers and survivors. A total of $135,000 was raised. The team I walked with raised over $2,000
  • Posted a Snap which was featured on Ohio State’s Snapchat Story, and viewed by 8,000 people
  • Dean’s List and 4.0 GPA!

Spring 2017

  • Worked 15 hours a week in Ohio Union at Sloopy’s Diner
  • Volunteered at nonprofit health care center for 15 hours over winter break
  • Volunteered as Young Scholars Ambassador for Go Buckeye Day, and welcomed 128 admitted Young Scholars (who are first-generation college students) to campus for the all-day event
  • Participated in MUNDO Multicultural Leadership trip to Cincinnati and Louisville, KY in January 2017
  • Awarded $2,000 OH-IO Education Abroad scholarship
  • Attended College of Public Health 2017 Spring Career Fair
  • Inducted into Mirrors Sophomore Class Honorary. 106 applicants and 46 members were chosen
  • Inducted into ALDPES, Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society
  • Elected to Global Health Initiative executive board as Event Planning co-chair
  • Elected to MUNDO executive board as Social Media and Marketing Correspondent
  • Participated in annual Involved Learning Organization (ILO) retreat
    MUNDO is one of the six central Involved Living Organizations within Residence Life which supports efforts to create the extraordinary student experience at The Ohio State University
  • Featured in a USAToday article that received over 2,000 shares. Article was about how I benefitted from an AmeriCorps member’s service while I was in high school applying for college
  • Accepted into BSPH major
  • Declared Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor
  • Dean’s List and 4.0 GPA to end freshman year!
  • Accepted as Summer Bridge Experience Peer Leader for Young Scholars Program for Summer 2017

25 Facts About Me

Here are 25 fun facts that demonstrate my unique personality:

1. I rapped my speech when I campaigned for senior class secretary of my high school. It gained laughs and applause. The speech was in poem-form, with every line rhyming. It took me an average of 2 minutes to recite the entire thing.

2. May 2016, I sent in headshots and body shots of myself to the casting agency for Fast and the Furious 8, and was surprised to receive a reply to my email saying that I was booked as an extra for a day. However, I made the mistake of telling the agency several days for availability, and one of those days was when I had mandatory high school graduation rehearsal. Missing the rehearsal was not an option for me; it would hurt me as well as my fellow seniors who were practicing. Sadly, I could not be involved in the filming, but it would have been great to be in the movie!

3. I do not eat seafood, not because of an allergy, but simply because they taste appalling to me. I can, however, eat seaweed chips! They’re a salty, crispy, thin snack.

4. I grew up watching Barney, Caillou, Sagwa the Siamese Cat, Cyberchase, Dragon Tales, Arthur, and much more PBS shows! Scooby Doo is my ultimate favorite children’s show, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coming close behind. I never watched SpongeBob.

5. My first dream job position was a mermaid; I was inspired after watching several movies with mermaids in them (Peter Pan, etc.)

6. Writing, as you can tell, is a hobby of mine, and I plan to do so for as long as I can! It is an outlet for me and a chance for me to reach a wide audience. I’ve won cash prizes for writing contests and for one contest, I was able to get a personal tour of the Cleveland medical examiner’s office!

7. I love eating crème brulees and vanilla-flavored desserts.

8. Skills I want to learn include whistling, snapping my fingers, and rolling my R’s.

9. I am a multimodal learner – I study in various ways, depending on the context and subject matter. For example, I color-coordinate my folders and notebooks. For my Medical Sociology class, I used a pink folder and pink notebook and pink highlighters/gel pens to write the headings and major concepts. When it’s time for finals, I write a study plan for my tests (what chapters would be covered, what concepts are most important, and how many days I would study leading up to the final, as well as how many hours I would plan to study.)

10. Things I keep on my desk are my lamp, a stapler, writing utensils, post-it notes, my laptop and its sleeve, lotion, water bottle, planner, and phone.

11. I always bring around with me a bottle of hand sanitizer, packs of tissues, a water bottle, and a pack of gum. In class one time, I was the only one who had scissors in handy for an activity, and the teacher announced that I was prepared. In my dorm, I keep around a sewing kit, first-aid kit, tape, scissors, cleaning wipes, and more. Sometimes if my working area is too disorderly, I have to clean it up or it’ll bother me and I cannot focus on my schoolwork!

12. I have one sibling, a brother, who is 494 days younger than me. He’s coming to OSU as well (OSU 2021).

13. Ten songs from my extremely diverse playlist are:

– Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling in Love
– No Doubt – Don’t Speak
– Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know?
– Twenty One Pilots – Truce
– Sia – The Greatest
– Red Hot Chili Peppers – Snow
– EXO – Moonlight ( a K-pop song!)
– One Direction – You & I
– G-Eazy and Kehlani – Good Life
– Drake – Trust Issues

Check some of these songs out if you have not heard some of them before.

14. I attended two concerts in Columbus so far, and I had never gone to a concert before college! The first one was in September and Kesha performed! I loved it and it was free! The second was in January with a band called Starset with opening acts: Liberty Deep Down, Harmless Habit, and 8 lbs under pressure.

15. Favorite on-campus eateries: Union Market (pasta, burgers, salads, sushi and more) and Sloopy’s Diner
Favorite off-campus eateries: Chipotle, Condado’s Tacos

16. Movies I have seen at the Gateway Film Center on OSU’s South Campus are Suicide Squad and the Lego Batman Movie. I recommend these movies!

17. Where do I sit in class? Is there a right place to sit?
For some classes, I sit in the same seat I always do, without fail. For larger lecture classes, I sometimes sit in the second row from the front, while other times I am in the very back.
There is a piece of advice for students to sit in the front so the professor gets to know you and your face, and also so you do not get distracted by other students. However, I have gotten A’s in my classes when I sit in the back. It may help to sit in the front, but for me, it does not hurt to be in the back.

18. I did not learn how to tie shoes until I was 18, a senior in high school. It’s surprising to people who hear this – they exclaim “No way, you are joking” but this is the truth.

19. I enjoy getting e-mails and regular mail.

20. I always prefer sleeping in the bottom bunk of the bunk bed. I hate climbing the ladders.

21. The first time I flew on a plane was December 2016, when I was 18. It was a thrilling time but I was anxious most of the way!

22. I have not ventured out of America yet. In 2018, I plan to go to China to change that.

23. I like routine. I went to the same elementary school from K-8 and the same high school from 9-12. And I tend to order the same things on a menu over and over again.

24. I pronounced Vaseline as “Vase-sa-leen” all my life but apparently the correct pronunciation is “vass-a-leen”.

25. My favorite board games would be Life, Mousetrap, Sorry, and Monopoly. I never cheat at games but my sibling always did.

Get Globally Engaged: OH-IO Education Abroad Scholarship

Coming into college, I knew I wanted to study abroad at same point during my undergraduate career. However, I did not expect to come across the opportunity to apply for the O-H-I-O Education Abroad scholarship, which was established in 2016. “The OH-IO Education Abroad Scholarship supports underrepresented and diverse student access to Ohio State education abroad programs. The inaugural scholarship competition resulted in 11 first and second year students from the Young Scholars Program being selected to receive a $2,000 scholarship to apply toward an Ohio State education abroad program of their choice.” I decided to apply and weeks later, discovered that I was a recipient!

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Nine of the 11 recipients of the OH-IO Education Abroad Scholarship along with ODI and OIA representatives! We are in front of the Garden of Constants.

I thank Ohio State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion as well as the Office of International Affairs for making this possible for me. I have never been to any other country before so this is truly meaningful and will help enable me to go anywhere I want to! I eventually want to travel to every single continent.
This scholarship will most likely be applied to one of the College of Public Health’s Public Health Perspectives trips! I am aiming to embark on the China trip in May 2018 so I can employ my Mandarin skills and learn about public health in a nation of over 1 billion people!

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Thank you to the photographer, Victor van Buchem, who is Senior Communications Specialist for the Office of International Affairs.

I will keep everyone updated on my travels and am so enthusiastic about my future endeavors!

Press release –

Honors & Scholars Essay – My Essay and Tips for Yours!

In fall of 2015, I was preparing my Common App application for Ohio State (I submitted September 30 – so early!), and I wanted to enhance my undergraduate education by being in either an Honors program or a Scholars program. Both have their merits and benefits; it just depends what each individual seeks in their college experience. To me, Honors is a more academic-focused experience. Pros are that you can schedule earlier than the vast majority of students (even before some seniors), take classes that are smaller and cover a greater amount of material on a deeper level, and live in Honors housing. Of course, Honors courses are harder than regular classes, but some welcome this challenge! However, Scholars also offered some appealing traits; there are 17 themes for the Scholars programs, catering to different interests. You also get to live and learn with your Scholars cohort your first year on campus (it’s a requirement!) and in addition to that, you all take a 1-credit hour seminar course that counts for grade and credit! Both programs allow you to be more involved because they have activities and events exclusive to those programs.
I liked Health Sciences Scholars the most, based on what I read about on the Honors & Scholars website. ( However, you are not able to choose your preferences for what Scholars program you are placed into until winter or spring. (Around Christmas time, I found out I was offered to be in Scholars, and then I was told that I can choose my top 3 choices for Scholars programs at a later time.) Then March 31, I was emailed saying I got into my first choice! So yay!

It is not mandatory for those applying to OSU to apply to Honors & Scholars as well; it is a supplementary essay! If you are interested in applying, continue reading:

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This picture of me was taken around the time I was five to seven years old. I grew up on a quiet street in Cleveland, Ohio (not a suburb of Cleveland but the inner-city itself). My upbringing played a vital part in influencing my personality; my parents raised me to be a determined, diligent student and hardworking person.

The prompt I had to answer for applying to Honors & Scholars was: How would your five-year-old self see you today? Considering your past experiences and your future ambitions, who do you feel you are becoming now? In what ways are those two images congruent, or divergent?   (350-500 words)

I have included my entire essay for my readers! (The one I submitted to OSU) It gives you a glimpse of my life and how my childhood experiences have shaped who I am today.

Green Eggs and Ham

    “Let’s read Green Eggs and Ham, Mei Yi,” my mom said as she pulled out a slim hardcover book and patted her hand on the sofa, motioning me to sit beside her. I was five years old, and learning English along with my mom. At this time, she was not a U.S. citizen, so both of us were trying to understand more about American culture. I have fond childhood memories spending rainy afternoons with my mom surrounded by boxes of books and reading to my heart’s content.

During elementary school, I was shy and struggled with learning two languages simultaneously. I would recede into the comforts of my mother’s arms. I would also try to conceal that I was bilingual, because I felt different and wanted to be more like my peers. When students would ask what my Chinese name was and for me to speak in my dialect, I felt like they were pointing out how different I was. When I got older, I began to realize that being different was not a bad thing.

My five-year-old self would be surprised at my intellectual curiosity. I immersed myself into situations outside of my comfort zone, and soon I became accustomed to talking to strangers. In ninth grade, I completed a year-long school project collaborating with a team from the American University of Paris. I even spent a week in college dorms 100 miles from home, which forced me to adjust to unfamiliar settings. Now I am more comfortable with meeting new people and find it easier to strike up conversations.

Today, my five-year-old self would see me as a role model to others and be proud of how I transformed from a timid, hesitant caterpillar into a resilient, powerful butterfly. I am becoming more confident in myself and my abilities. Although I may be nervous about conquering challenges, like public speaking, I still step up and face them head-on. Now, I take control of my future and engage in my community by volunteering at the hospital, tutoring my peers, and being a senior mentor to two freshmen. It is important to set an example for others and I want to share my experiences with them.

My past and present self are congruent because we both love reading and place a high priority on learning. However, these two images are also divergent because I am more responsible and outgoing. I seize the moment and take advantage of all opportunities. I feel like I am turning into a person who doesn’t follow in someone’s footsteps or who hides in the shadows, but who forges my own path. This is part of growing up. Maybe one day I will even be courageous enough to try green eggs and ham.

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This is what my childhood copy of the book looked like. I can still vividly remember where I was sitting with my mom in the living room when she read to me. (I was on her left, and I was closest to the front door.) It was sometime in the evening, with the sun slowly sinking into the horizon. Thanks Mom for my earliest memory.


Tips for writing your H&S essay:
Do not make it a repeat of your resume or the rest of your application. Do not just list out a slew of achievements. Instead, focus on one particular aspect of your life (a slice of the pie) and talk in depth about that.
Brainstorm. I take pieces of plain white unlined paper and draw bubbles to make a mind-map diagram. I spend at least a half-hour freewriting, jotting down whatever pops into my head.
For this specific essay, you can divide part of the paper into sections. One part can say “Five-year-old self” and “Present day self” and then list all the differences and similarities. Also, I thought about what my dream job was when I was five, and I remember myself saying “Mermaid” to my relatives. I didn’t use this idea in my essay, but it helped me recollect what I was like as a child: very imaginative yet quiet.
Ask family and friends about what you were like as a child and what they have noticed about your growth (academically, personally, etc.) They can help spark memories you may not know you have about yourself! Pull out the old scrapbooks from your house attic if you want to as well.
It may not be complete in one sitting. My essay writing took a process of a few months. Just start early and continue working on it a bit at a time. I started in August (August 1, I believe), being the proactive person I am by nature.
Have three people review it. (Just make sure you have others proof-read it besides yourself.) Actually, this number can be adjusted based on what you feel is right for you. I think I had at least five people look at my essay: my upper-class English teacher, the English teacher’s assistant, two college advisors, and my close friends.
-Use Google Docs or an equivalent. With Google Docs, you can share it with others via email with a few clicks of a button, and they can comment on it while you are simultaneously looking at the document from your own device. Also, Google Docs saves your document automatically so it will not be lost if your power suddenly shuts off.

To future OSU applicants, best of luck with your essays! I hope my essay provides inspiration and my tips are helpful to you!
P.S. I still have not tried green eggs and ham.

Celebrating Diversity with MUNDO

A craft I made for a James Cancer Hospital patient. I initially started with a big red blob of paint and it became the state bird of Ohio, a chubby, chirpy red cardinal. People say that if you come across one, it is good luck!

One of my favorite experiences in college so far has been joining the student organization MUNDO (Multicultural Understanding through Nontraditional Discovery Opportunities). I first heard of this club during the summer when I was researching OSU clubs online and checked out MUNDO’s website. I was drawn in by the field trips abroad to places like Rome and London. As I attended more meetings (I should have gone more frequently), I realized MUNDO is much more than simply going to new countries and sight-seeing. They do workshops that really make you learn and engage with people of different backgrounds. For example, we had presentations about homelessness, Islamophobia, a brainstorming session about how to address global issues, as well as excursions to the Greek Festival or Amish country. MUNDO also does trips to theaters to see shows like Rent. We also volunteered and made crafts for patients or visit Star House during a few Service Nights. Overall, I learn how to be an active participant in the world around me and contribute to my community!

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Venice Beach at sunset, taken by me, December 2016. Absolutely gorgeous and the first time I saw the ocean

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At the Getty Art Museum in L.A. with Anushka, Rachel, Ana, Dinu, and Maria.

I discussed my L.A. trip with MUNDO  in a previous post (see “What I Did Over Winter Break”). That trip was the first time I went across the country and so far from home. On the trip I did not know anyone, being a new member and a freshman. But I was exposed to new foods and cultures and a different vibe in L.A. This trip sparked my fire for becoming involved with MUNDO on a deeper level, and I want to plan one of their future trips!


I continued my involvement with MUNDO and exploration of the country in Spring 2017:
The Multicultural Leadership MLK Experience on Saturday, January 14, allowed me to learn more about what comprises leadership through exploration of African-American history and the Civil Rights movement at both the Muhammad Ali Center in Kentucky and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. This trip only costs $8 and was worth every penny! (Lunch included)

I was drawn in by these murals illustrating Ali’s six major pillars to life: confidence, spirituality, respect, conviction, dedication, and giving.

Around 10 am, the group of 25 students (undergraduate and graduate) and staff members took a self-guided tour of the Muhammad Ali Center, a museum about Muhammad Ali, the boxer and activist. I learned that his real name is Cassius Clay Jr. and he participated in his first match at age 18. He did not drink soda, and he trained vigorously. He lived and breathed boxing. He had a signature shuffle, which I saw in videos that were displayed on screens throughout the museum. There were also several art galleries dedicated to Ali, and a number of art pieces intrigued me. Not only did the museum include parts of Ali’s life, but it also incorporated information about inventors who were people of color and/or women and did not receive widespread recognition (if any) for their contributions to society. It opened my eyes even more to how I had not heard about this individuals, and how some people fail to see people-of-color as human or as valuable contributors to society.

At noon, we departed for Cincinnati for the National Underground Railroad Museum/Freedom Center, which was equally captivating and interesting. We had a docent walk us through the museum, exploring slavery and walking through rooms with the walls painted to make it look like we had stepped back in time to the 1800s. The kind, wise docent told us stories with much emotion. We learned about how people fought to end slavery. For example, one brave man was one of the few in his community to have a printing press, which he used to help spread the message against slavery. Opponents dumped his machine into the Ohio River a couple times. When he kept retrieving his machine and remained determined to print about and advocate for this movement, locals in the community shot him to death. Another heartbreaking story was when a woman slave murdered her children (including slashing the throat of her toddler) because she was caught escaping with them and did not want them to ever be slaves and live through that experience.

Each pebble in the column stands for a life lost to slavery. According to my docent at the Freedom Center, if the Middle Passage was spread apart like the Red Sea, bones of the deceased would completely cover the path from Africa to the Americas. That is how many people died along the journey as well as when they arrived by force.

At the Freedom Center, I also learned facts about modern-day racism towards African-Americans. When Obama was president, the amount of hate groups actually increased 830%, according to our docent. That number astonished me because I had no idea that there was so much hate after he became our president. I did not expect that number to be that high. I believe that most of the reason for the sudden skyrocketing in hate group formation is due to the fact that they are judging Obama by his appearance without taking the time to get to know who he truly is. I have encountered hate and disrespect for my skin color and differences. (Mini anecdote: When Obama was inaugurated in 2008, I remember watching on a TV in my elementary school gymnasium. I was in the fourth-grade, and although I did not know about his platform at all at the time, my class did a mock-vote and I still voted for him.)

In summary, this day-trip exposed me to new facts about the sad history Africans had to endure and how we are feeling aftereffects still. Racism exists, even more so in subtle ways built into institutions. They, along with other people of color, feel inferior. What I can do after this experience is to continue to document my travels and spread more awareness about these issues. I can talk to my friends and classmates about how I feel and what I think can be done to prevent similar instances from occurring ever again. Despite that I cannot change history, I have responsibility to affect how the future turns out. What’s a little intimidating is that I am at a ripe age and now is the time for me to take action.

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At our last meeting for the 2016-2017 school year (4/17/17) This is the aftermath of celebrating the Mexican Easter tradition of using cascarones (eggs filled with confetti) and smashing or crumbling the eggs over the heads of friends/family to wish them good luck.

As the spring semester continued, I decided to step up and take on a leadership position in MUNDO! On their executive board, I have the honor of being the Social Media and Marketing Correspondent for the 2017-2018 year. This role entails keeping social media pages for MUNDO (Facebook, Twitter) updated, regularly emailing members so they stay informed, and designing graphics to promote our group and gain new members! I want to thank everyone in MUNDO, from the members to the advisors, for making me a better person inside and out.

A Year In Review: Year 1

Since coming to OSU, have you seen any personal growth into who you are now? What were your expectations and preconceived notions about college and HSS? Were those initial expectations met? What are your goals for your 2nd Year in HSS and at OSU?

Reflecting on the near-completion of my first-year at OSU, I am amazed at how far I came and the experiences I gained. I have witnessed personal growth in my ability to take on more tasks and a heavier workload than in high school. Taking on Chinese for my foreign language requirement was something I hated in the first few months on campus but I came to enjoy how rewarding it is to make all this progress. Plus, I really liked the five Chinese TAs I saw (one for each day of the week) who made the in-class work enjoyable. Also, I found employment and another family at Sloopy’s Diner in the Ohio Union. Working in the Dessert Shop whipping up milkshakes (which did not bring boys to the yard), cookie a la modes, fudge brownies and other delectable delicacies entailed some physical labor and endurance. Standing for 5 hour shifts was something I quickly became accustomed to, and I improved customer service skills. Teamwork does make the dream work! Another way I grew is that I am more self-aware. I handle stress better and know when and who to turn to when I need additional assistance. I realize that I need time to recharge. Do not feel shameful or guilty for spending that half-hour or hour catching up on Netflix or painting your nails – taking breaks works for me, and should work for others too. Also important is my increased openness to new ideas, even ones that challenge my thoughts and beliefs (the 2016 election was a difficult time for the whole world, and I learned to be vocal about my rights and not remain silent, but that it was ok to engage in debate.) I lived with a complete stranger this year (I grew up sleeping with my mom and brother in the same room my entire life). My environment changed so much but I love my current surroundings. If I could pick a single facet that makes OSU so great, I would have to choose the people.

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The 2017-2018 cohort of Health Sciences Scholars first years! We are residing in Park-Stradley Hall because our community lives and learns together. I am in the second row 7th from the right, wearing a red sweater underneath my shirt.

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A portion of the Health Sciences Scholars (first and second-years) volunteered one morning at the Garden of Hope, a James Cancer Hospital initiative for cancer patients to help manage their cancer and general health. I enjoyed learning about the variety of plants grown there. The farm also has cows!

I was placed into my first choice Scholars program, Health Sciences Scholars (HSS), so I was enthusiastic about that because it most closely aligned with my career and personal interests of healthcare. I looked forward to learning how to be a skilled professional and approach public health from a biopsychosocial standpoint. HSS had a beginning-of-the-year bash with Minute-to-Win-It-like games that they called the Olympics. It was fun and broke some ice. At the start of the year, we also volunteered together as a giant group and that helped me feel more comfortable with my cohort of about a hundred students. Actually, HSS exceeded my expectations because we had a seminar course autumn semester where we learned about topics like multiculturalism, how to give a presentation on a disease, and health literacy. We were divided into groups to present on our chosen diseases, so this reinforced my collaboration and research skills.

Our program coordinator, Gail, really made an effort to ensure that we participated and benefitted from HSS. She put on multiple student panels for our class as well as brought in professionals such as doctors and occupational therapists (who are also OSU faculty) for the event Dining with the Department. I also really liked the HSS events; they helped my college experience because sometimes there were craft nights or stress-relief days with puppies. HSS is just one of the several different communities I am in at OSU, and we are all connected by our desire to improve the world and people’s health, whether it’s hands-on clinical interaction or community outreach. I learned much more about this field of work. In HSS, we were provided with information about resources like research opportunities, student organizations, and volunteering options. The various assignments we did for class helped strengthen my writing; I explored secondary solutions/back-up-plans if public health does not turn out well for me, and by taking personality assessments, it was not a surprise that my strong suits are helping and caring! I am a great fit for my future career.

My goals for my second year of HSS is to do exceptionally well with the Second Year Major Service Project (which requires at least 40 hours of volunteering under a certain theme) and learn from that while setting an example for younger HSS cohorts. In spring of 2018, I present my project at the HSS Symposium they have each year at Hale Hall.

I had a list of my expectations for college (a google doc with goals I wanted to achieve my first year into second year). These achievements included: getting accepted into my major, joining at least one club, committing to a volunteering opportunity, become Young Scholar Ambassador, and getting a 4.0. I fulfilled all of these! Coming into college with a framework or road map is useful. I explored the OSU website for hours and also checked out College Confidential as well as OSU’s Instagram, Facebook and YouTube channels when I had spare time. Sure, you may deviate from your proposed plans but at least you’re not going to be walking into OSU blind with no direction. (Then again, having no idea what you want to do before you arrive on campus is not necessarily bad! Welcome Week and the Involvement Fair gives you so much free stuff and they help you determine what you want to be apart of.)
I have ups and downs in college (unexpected late scholarship payments that caused me to resign from work-study for the semester, and relationship issues), but that’s all part of life. I learned how to be more flexible, more adult-like.

Mirrors Sophomore Class Honorary 2017-2018 Privileged to be among the 46 members chosen out of 106 applicants! There was an application process and interviewing round. I am happy to spend the next year (and beyond) with brilliant-minded individuals dedicated to the pillars of Service, Learning, and Leadership!

My goals for OSU in general are to dig deeper into my activities because during my first year I only touched the tip of the iceberg, and I want to get to the core of it. I know I will be a volunteer at the James Cancer Hospital, an executive-board member for a club called MUNDO, and member of Mirrors Sophomore Class Honorary. Furthermore, I will be conducting a project with STEP support and funding. I hope to be an HIV test counselor as well. Additionally, I hope I will continue to manage my academics, which are a constant challenge that I embrace with open arms.

Now that it is mid-April, I am prepping for my finals, which I anticipate will hit me harder than Holly Holms knocked out Ronda Rousey in 2015, but I know I can bounce back from that! 😉

Until next year,
Melinda Dang