Coordinator of the Month: Max Blumenthal
Name: Max Blumenthal
Hometown: Lexington, Massachusetts
College Attended / Major: Cornell University / Biology & Society
HealthCorps School Placement: Sharpstown High School – Houston, Texas
Fun Fact: My favorite kitchen utensil is the whisk, not only because it is fun to use but also because it is a fun word to say.
Jeffrey Hartinger: How did you become involved with HealthCorps?
Max Blumenthal: After graduating from college, I wanted to put my interest in public health into practice and engage with a population of young people and a community grappling with serious health barriers. HealthCorps gives me the amazing opportunity to learn about students’ lives and work with them to create public health solutions that fit their needs. I’ve gained so much knowledge and life experience from my students that informs all the work I do here in Houston.
JH: What has been the highlight of your placement so far?
MB: A group of students approached me last year with serious concerns about the poor quality and lack of varied options in school lunch offerings. The students, as well as the staff at Sharpstown, observed that many students were not eating lunch, failing to get adequate daily nutrition and the quality of their work and focus suffered in their afternoon classes. I guided this motivated group of students through a yearlong project to explore what we could do to address this problem, learning about the Smarter Lunchroom program and the politics and nutrition of school lunch. Ultimately, the students created a presentation, proposing changes to several high-ranking school food executives in the district. They were so impressed, that they not only helped the students work to implement the proposed changes at Sharpstown but have also used the students’ activism and initiative as a model for other schools in the district.
JH: Outside of the classroom, what are some of the activities that you are involved with?
MB: Outside of the classroom I run several clubs, including a cooking club, a running club that is currently training to run the Houston Half Marathon, a gardening club, a guys club and I work with The Woods Project to run an outdoor exploration and leadership club that takes students on hiking and backpacking trips. I am also working closely with the Houston Food Bank to establish a satellite food pantry at the high school to address issues of food insecurity in the community and hopefully provide each student with a daily afternoon snack.
JH: What do you plan to pursue after your service to HealthCorps is complete?
MB: I am interested in continuing on to a career in public health and community nutrition in both program delivery and research. I want to work to create communities where making healthy decisions is easier than unhealthy ones through education, policy and research.
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?
MB: I’ve learned to listen first. The most valuable resource in public health is the community you are trying to serve. Tap the resources, knowledge and most importantly perceptions of those in need first. By working to empower my students to think of themselves as activists and change makers and encouraging them to think critically about their own community, I have shown them and myself that we can actually make a difference.
We want to thank Max Blumenthal for his exceptional work and congratulate him for being this month’s coordinator of the month.