Coordinator Of The Month: Naomi Soto
Name: Naomi Soto
Hometown: Prior to moving for HealthCorps I lived in Orlando, Florida, but I have lived in numerous cities along the east coast.
College Attended / Major: English and Journalism double major at The George Washington University
HealthCorps School Placement: Coachella Valley High School in Coachella, CA
Fun Fact: In high school, I started a mini fire trying to make toast. Now I relax by creating something new in the kitchen, and one of my favorite things to do with my students is to cook and have conversations about cooking, family, and recipes.
Jeffrey Hartinger: How did you become involved with HealthCorps?
Naomi Soto: I was working in grant management for a non-profit but was interested in doing more “direct service” and “on the ground” type of work. I have since found that you can’t get any more direct that interacting with teenagers every day like I get to do with HealthCorps.
It didn’t hurt that I was able to move to a state that I had been dying to live in… with a job!
JH: What has been the highlight of your placement so far?
NS: Early in my first year Dr. Oz and other key figures of HealthCorps visited CVHS for about 4 hours. They toured the school greenhouse, engaged with the Health Academy students, had lunch made by the Hospitality Academy, spoke with student reporters from a youth media organization, and then interacted with volunteers, parents, and staff. It was a huge endeavor that was only possible because so many people came together.
I was overwhelmed and astounded with the amount of support I got from students, teachers, and community partners that I literally just met. I realized then that I was in a special place and that HealthCorps could do great things on a campus like CVHS and a community like Coachella.
JH: Outside of the classroom, what are some of the activities that you are involved with?
NS: Outside of the classroom, I’m responsible for a cooking class in the after school program, a Gay Straight Alliance club, and a weekly staff yoga class.
I’m also very active in the Health Happens in Schools Action Team through Building Healthy Communities, Eastern Coachella Valley. This collaborative effort has been instrumental in making the HealthCorps message in school a genuine community effort. For instance, I worked in conjunction with the school-based health center to create student clinic advocates. I used vegetables from the local foods banks in my cooking club.
I helped establish an LGBT support group and provide professional mental health services on campus in collaboration with a crisis center. It’s vital to me that students know that they have adult allies everywhere—not just through me.
JH: What do you plan to pursue after your service to HealthCorps is complete?
NS: I will be working for my school’s funder– Building Healthy Communities, Eastern Coachella Valley. BHC is the ten year investment from The California Endowment. I will continue working with young people, but also expand my reach to parents, community partners, and government agencies to improve the health inequities that affect the rural areas of Coachella, Thermal, Mecca, and North Shore, California.
JH: What is one thing you have learned that you will be able to carry with you as you move forward in life?
NS: I’ve really taken to heart the quote, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
By far the most important skill I’ve developed the past two years is the power of collaboration and partnership. As a total newbie to the area and being placed in an area that did not know HealthCorps, I greatly relied on new partners. This made the potential for HealthCorps so much greater than I ever anticipated. It was a humbling experience to be welcomed so warmly in my school and community.
We want to thank Naomi Soto for her exceptional work and congratulate her for being this month’s coordinator of the month.