Coordinator of the Month: Tamara Barrett
Name: Tamara Barrett
Hometown: Marion, Indiana
College Attended / Major: Taylor University/ Psychology pre-med
HealthCorps School Placement: University Heights High School, Bronx, NY
Jeffrey Hartinger: How did you become involved with HealthCorps?
Tamara Barrett: During college, I was pursuing medicine both because I was intrigued by science and due to the importance it played in my life having severely disabled siblings. I wanted to give back and challenge myself. After an amazing internship at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health- I was won over to the preventative side of health care. The director of my internship program suggested I apply for HealthCorps and although my initial hope was to be a coordinator on the West Coast, I found myself accepting a position in the heart of the South Bronx. I am truly grateful for this unique opportunity to facilitate positive change in meaningful ways alongside students, staff, and community members.
JH: What has been the highlight of your placement so far?
TB: In the spring of my first year as a coordinator, our school wellness council worked together to apply for a very competitive grant. After multiple applications, interviews, and site visits, I Challenge Myself awarded University Heights with a grant to implement the Cycling Smarts Program. This fall we recruited students and hit the streets of NYC on top of the line road bikes. When weather allows I (Tamara Barrett) enjoy commuting by bike through the city, so the opportunity to share that love with my students has been such a gift. This program is designed to teach students cycling skills and build their strength, but most importantly we focus on overcoming challenges and setting goals. All year we will be training to prepare for our century ride that takes place in June. We will ride 100 miles in one day, along with the 3 other participating NYC schools, participating in the only known teen century ride in the US!
JH: Outside of the classroom, what are some of the activities that you are involved with?
TB: When I’m not teaching in the classroom, I find plenty of different ways to spread learning and excitement about health. I receive a lot of enthusiasm in my cycling and cooking clubs, but I’ve also focused on ways to reach students who can’t make those commitments. The all school health fair is a prime example of students experiencing health in a fun and interactive way. I have also partnered with teachers by taking trips to places like healthy grocery stores or parks to discuss how to make healthy choices in our daily settings. I also really enjoy the mentoring side that my position allows for, and have formed many close relationships with staff and students alike, through setting goals together and offering accountability.
JH: What do you plan to pursue after your service to HealthCorps is complete?
TB: This summer I had the opportunity to serve as the Summer Institute Leader at our first-year coordinator training in Sacramento. I could not have anticipated how much I would enjoy working with the amazing education team and how rewarding it would be to equip coordinators to facilitate positive change in their communities. Since having this experience, my desire to invest in HealthCorps has continued to strengthen and I would love to continue my involvement with the organization. HealthCorps included, I am connected with multiple organizations that are at a crucial time of growth and I’m interested in collaborating to work on strategic development for the future. Given that the mentoring piece of my coordinator role has been so important, I hope to use that skill in the next position I acquire. Art and design are two things that I also very much enjoy, and I hope to continue pursuing both, especially as long as I’m in NYC where there is so much support and opportunity to grow.
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?
TB: One big lesson I have learned is the importance of working together to achieve goals. When I first started as a coordinator and didn’t have many strong relationships, I would tend to accomplish things on my own. It would take more time on my part, but I only had to rely on myself to get it done. Once I made those relationships and had people who wanted to be involved, it took more work to orchestrate the happenings that go into meeting a goal. It requires organization, trust, communication, and a myriad of other skills. The end result, whether it be a big event like the health fair or a simpler item like applying for a grant, is always more rewarding when it is a team effort. More learning takes place, teams become stronger, ownership grows, and sustainability is ensured. After my time as a coordinator, I will remember this lesson of prioritizing teamwork to not only achieve goals but allow for growth along the way.
We want to thank Tamara Barrett for her exceptional work and congratulate her for being this month’s coordinator of the month.