BA in Public Health Policy, Minor in Educational Studies 2011
School of Education
November 1, 2010
Experiences in Santa Ana and Zambia Deepened Commitment to Children’s Health Education
Since middle school, I knew I wanted to teach but could never put a finger on what exactly. One week I would be sitting in class fascinated by my Spanish teacher, and then wanting to coach a swim team the next. It was not until the end of freshman year of college, in a classroom at Franklin Elementary in Santa Ana, that I found my true passion.
As a Public Health major, I have always heard these three words: prevent, promote, and protect. The only way to actually implement this ideal is through education, which I first learned in this classroom. Spring quarter of freshman year, I was in a health promotion directed studies course, where we were focusing on the importance of health behavior in early childhood. At the end of the quarter, we gave a presentation at the school of our choice. I chose a first grade class at Franklin Elementary and presented on healthy snacks. When I walked into the classroom on a sunny morning, I saw a bag of Cheetos on one desk and soda on another. I knew that my one poster with pictures of fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains was not going to be enough to help convince these students about the importance of healthy snacks. That is when I noticed the vital need for a regular health teacher, and that is exactly what I decided I was going to strive to be.
For all four years here at UCI, I have been a part of the Teachers of Tomorrow club and was on the board my sophomore year. As a board member I was able to choose a speaker, and I chose Ellen Reibling, the head of the Health Education Center. This was an amazing opportunity for me to hear about the possibilities for those interested in teaching health. Another great encounter I had through Teachers of Tomorrow was at a teaching conference in Fullerton. I was enthralled by a session on how to incorporate health into your classroom without it being a health class per se. The Teachers of Tomorrow club has given me many great opportunities to network and learn new teaching strategies.
This summer, I was given the opportunity to join my aunt on a trip throughout the southern region of Africa. As I was there, I looked for all signs of health education, and education programs in general. When we reached Zambia, I had one of the most fascinating experiences in my life. We were welcomed into one of the many native villages and given a tour. As we walked by mud huts with curious small children wandering around with us, we reached a schoolhouse. There were baby goats sitting in front of the principal’s office, and kids hanging out on the steps anxiously waiting for it to be their turn for class. Every child I spoke to excitedly told me they loved school (a sentiment which I think a lot of American parents would be shocked to hear).
The children had their torn up work books in tow and were wearing their tattered school uniforms, and they were brimming with excitement and joy. Then I noticed their runny noses, jaundiced eyes, and mud-covered hands, and I thought about basic sanitation. In order for these hopeful children to get the most out of their education, you want them to feel both physically and mentally well enough to reach their potential. This experience drove me to pursue my dreams even more forcefully than I would have ever expected, and I am now in the process of applying to the Peace Corps in hopes of teaching health education abroad in undeveloped communities in need of basic health education and promotion.