Coordinator of the Month: Alice Curchin
Name: Alice Curchin
Hometown: East Montpelier, VT
College Attended / Major: Davidson College, Anthropology with a concentration in Medical Humanities
HealthCorps School Placement: Health Professions High School, Sacramento, CA
Fun Fact: Like a true Vermonter, I worked at the Ben and Jerry’s factory for two years during high school selling ice cream. Convincing people to eat vegetables is a bit harder than convincing people to eat ice cream.
Jeffrey Hartinger: How did you become involved with HealthCorps?
Alice Curchin: I went to a small college in North Carolina and worked as a peer health advisor in my junior and senior year. While it was amazing to work with people just entering adulthood, I always wished that there was a way to reach people earlier in life to give them the tools before they struck out on their own. A fellow Davidson grad, Madeleine Godfrey, was working at a local NC school and invited me to run a booth at her HealthCorps Health Fair. The students possessed a fresh curiosity to increase their health knowledge that was inspiring. I knew I needed to be part of this movement to increase the health of our nation’s youth.
JH: What has been the highlight of your placement so far?
AC: One of my favorite days was when I convinced a brave group of 30 students and staff to wake up early Saturday morning to catch a bus out to the wilderness of northern California to go on a 5-mile strenuous hike. I have come to believe that getting my students outside is pertinent because the wilderness can provide them with a unique break from the world around them, give them a tangible understanding of the benefits of physical and mental health, and allow them to experience a sense of genuine pride that comes from successfully facing challenges. While there was a copious amount of whining and the occasional threat on my life when I kept telling the students for hours that we were almost there, everyone left the day feeling like a champion. The students have even starting asking when we can go on another hike!
Another key highlight of my first year at the school was the work I did with my Student Health Ambassadors. A group of dedicated men and women from all different grades and friend groups applied to work as peer health advisors on campus. They participated in classroom teaching, educational booths during lunch, and School Wellness Council meetings. The group of bright young men and women gave me an inside perspective on what was happening on campus. Each individual awed me in their development as influential leaders of health in their school community.
I(Alice Curchin) wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of a school staff that unwaveringly cares about our students’ education and well being. Each teacher and administrator has a wonderful willingness to help make things work, no matter how crazy my plan to increase health on campus.
JH: Outside of the classroom, what are some of the activities that you are involved with?
AC:The first year was definitely a time of experimenting with different opportunities for the students. My favorite two hours of each week was my afterschool Cooking Club, Lettuce Turnip the Beets, where each meeting was a food adventure filled with new ingredients from around the world, healthy modifications of students’ favorite foods, and mouth-watering results. A highlight was when my students were able to show off their talents by making walnut shrimp spring rolls on stage in front of thousands at Highway to Health in May.
After spending a lot of time in PE classes talking to girls about why they were sitting on the sidelines of games, I start a Girls Running Club to allow girls to create their own space to experiment with exercise and what it means to be a female. Through teamwork and conversations about health, gender roles, and media influences, we learned about making thoughtful decisions about our bodies and how to stand up for each other and ourselves. A number of girls had never run before and it was wonderful to watch as they transformed into strong and beautiful female runners, especially at our season’s concluding race where we ran in the largest all women’s running event in Sacramento and every girl successfully completed 5 kilometers together!
JH: What do you plan to pursue after your service to HealthCorps is complete?
AC:The expansive field of health has so many interesting opportunities to continue learning, and I don’t plan on ever stopping. I plan to eventually apply to Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner programs, but would like to work in public health and policy first in order to further understand the mechanics of our health system in order to make lasting change in my community.
JH: What is one thing you have learned from your placement that you will be able to carry with you as you move forward in life?
AC:I have discovered that the best way to make a difference is to focus on building relationships with the community, finding out what makes it tick, and assess what the population wants instead of forcing my own agenda.
While I strongly believe in educating youth about why they should eat vegetables and get exercise each day, many of my students and their families do not have their basic human needs met – food, shelter, safety. Teaching anyone, I have learned, is far less about the details of the lesson than the new experiences and feeling of empowerment you help facilitate. I found that this goal was only possible after learning what is important to each student and showing that I am invested in helping them thrive, both in their health and in the pursuit of their dreams.
We want to thank Alice Curchin for her exceptional work and congratulate her for being this month’s coordinator of the month.