Alumni Highlight: Annie Denenberg
Annie Denenberg served at Brooklyn Lab School (At Franklin K. Lane Campus), Brooklyn, NY, from 2011-2013. She received a B.S. in Marketing Communications from Emerson College and a MPH in Community Health Education from CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College.
What did you do after HealthCorps? What are you doing now because of HealthCorps? What do you plan to do in the future?
After HC I wanted to continue working on my passion to help children and adolescents live healthy life styles, so I worked as a health educator with Harlem Children’s Zone. I then decided I wanted to learn health education theory and higher level skills, so I went back to school and got my MPH in community health education.
There I focused my courses and internships on learning program evaluation skills, which is what I am focused on now–program evaluation (in hopes of helping make health programs better by determining what aspects are most impactful, and which can be improved).
What was the greatest lesson you learned about creating change in health and wellness in your time with HealthCorps?
One of many important lessons I learned is that you have to figure out what people are motivated by and what their passions are. Then you must meet them where they are, and push them to where they are ready to be (no more or you’ll lose them and accomplish nothing, and no less or you’re wasting your and their time).
What was your favorite moment or memory with a student, staff or community member during your time as a HealthCorps Coordinator?
Can’t choose just one! Here are two:
- A student who previously “disliked” me was skipping class and complaining of a stomach ache. I suggested I make her some ginger ale. She questioned if this was possible but reluctantly agreed, so I took her to the cooking club kitchen and made her homemade ginger ale from selzer, fresh ginger and cane sugar. She loved it and said her stomach felt better. We had a close relationship for the next year and half that I was there.
- When asking my cooking club students what they wanted to make for the health fair booth, they decided on their own–steamed broccoli with Asian peanut sauce. They ran the booth the whole day and got hundreds of kids to try the broccoli and many said they liked it. Most importantly, the cooking club students ran the whole thing themselves, and had a blast teaching their peers about the nutritional importance of broccoli the whole day long.
How are you currently taking what you learned from HealthCorps and using it in your professional life now?
Everything I do every day has been influenced in some way by my time with HealthCorps. Spending two years with the students, school, staff, and the larger community, taught me extremely important lessons about how to encourage healthy behaviors and how to do it in low-resource communities with cultures different than my own.
Many of my best professional and interpersonal qualities were developed through my time there, including flexibility, humility, patience, never-ending-smiles, perseverance, timeliness, respect, open mindedness, etc. etc. etc. Now when I start any job, I don’t start by thinking about what can or should I do to help, rather, I think about asking them “What do you want and how can I help?”
Do you have any additional reflections to share about how your time as a Coordinator has influenced you?
It is so critical to spend extended time in and with a community that you want to help before you assume you know what is best for them. My time with HealthCorps was just the tip of the iceberg, but now at least I know there is a glacier underneath.