Coordinator of the Month: Erica Sun | September 2017
Name: Erica Sun
Hometown: Clinton Township, MI
College Attended, Major: University of Minnesota, Bachelor of Individualized Studies in Dance, Psychology, & Life Science
Eastern Michigan University, Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology
HealthCorps School Placement: Tishomingo High School, Tishomingo, OK
Fun Fact: I went to Paris over spring break to celebrate my 30th birthday with my mom.
Question #1: How did you become involved with HealthCorps?
After completing my Masters, I (Erica Sun) had the opportunity to be part of a small team developing a Pediatric Weight Management Program in Detroit for 3 years. Due to the nature of the public health field and funding, there wasn’t a large opportunity for growth in that position. My other professional experience is in cardiovascular health, teaching, dance, and youth, so the HealthCorps opening was appealing to me.
Additionally, I was drawn to the placement in Oklahoma because of the funder, the Chickasaw Nation. My grandmother is full blood Onieda Indian, and my great uncle was actually chief of the tribe for many years. Because of my heritage, I have grown up aware of the health disparities that the Native American population faces and was eager to help. It has been such a pleasant experience to work alongside the Chickasaw Nation and hear their heart for their people.
Question #2: What has been a highlight of your placement so far?
Our first Health Fair held in April 2017! The theme was Wizard of Oz and titled “Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Health Fair”. There were 16 booths featured, including 7 community booths, and over 200 students participated in the event.
Community participants included the Johnston County Health Department, Chickasaw Lighthorse Police, OSU/4H Smoothie Bike, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Zumba by K-Fit, and Chickasaw Prevention Services. The Health Department was pleased to come in and provide teen pregnancy prevention and tobacco education to students, an opportunity they do not routinely have.
Students remarked their favorite booths were Zumba, the smoothie bike, and the drunk goggles. Even visiting middle schoolers were given a chance to participate in the event and feedback from the school & administration was positive. This week, at Back to School Night, students were asking about this upcoming year’s Health Fair, and entering freshman remarked on how fun the event was to participate in last year!
The event lit a flame in the hearts of our school and community for what HealthCorps is and what can be accomplished when you work together. I think we all can’t wait to do it again!
Question #3: Why did you decide to stay on with HealthCorps past the typical two year term?
Our school community faced a tornado of upsets last year. And with the decision of our principal to take a position at another school, many of the school staff were contemplating leaving. As a teacher in Oklahoma, with an absence of raises and an increase of budget cuts, staying put in an uncertain environment doesn’t look all that appealing. I knew, if I stayed, I may be walking in without my wellness champions and friends.
Individually, I had to look at long term career goals. I knew I didn’t want to move along to another company and/or another location in the country just to decide that’s not where I wanted to be long term. The HealthCorps opportunity is unique in that it offers a two year placement and then continues its life giving work with a new employee in that same community. Most companies don’t run like that and expect more. I knew if moving on was going to happen it needed to be in an ideal location and in a position that would align with my passion.
However, I didn’t shut off the possibility of staying at Tishomingo High School or living in Oklahoma for two more years. I knew, with the large staff turnover that was lurking for the upcoming year, our students having a familiar face in the school, a point of stability, was a position I could fill. I, also, knew the need was dire for someone to continue on the work HealthCorps began in the school, ideally someone who knew the school and community, as it is a small, rural town with minimal resources. There too, I could fill that role.
At HealthCorps, we preach balance in the classroom and as a company, in both our professional and personal lives. I didn’t want to stay and serve with a half heart wishing I had moved back home or to a town that provided the comforts of city life, which I’d prefer. So, in early April, I made a list of things I needed to stay and began to solution seek (one of our HealthCorps’ norms) how to make that happen. I am a good problem solver, but I believe God is more adequate, and through the next month and a half saw answers where I needed to see them to make my decision to stay a yes. One being our Health Fair and the overwhelming support from the community and school; it was a definite rainbow admist the storm.
Question #4: What are you most excited about as you get started with your new role as National Team Lead?
Encouraging our coordinators! I am a cheerleader at heart, and I can’t wait to hear all that our coordinators are doing across the country. I, also, love sharing things I’ve learned and solution seeking with others and seeing the results. Being in this position, that is now a job responsibility, and I can’t wait to see what happens.
Another responsibility of this position is being a liaison between our Education Team and our coordinators. Our bi-yearly in person training’s allow for us to really feel like a team and collaborate; however, when we are on the ground and scattered around the country, we sometimes lose that. I am fortunate to work for a company that values the opinions and expertise of their employees, and agree things run more smoothly when that communication and comradely stays open and flowing year-round.
Question #5: What is one piece of advice you have for the new Coordinators as they gear up to enter their schools?
One of our HealthCorps’ norms: Trust the Process. Change is slow, but so rewarding when it occurs. Learn student and staff names, build relationships, and stay positive.
I heard it said well yesterday by Jon Hazel, Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year, “You create the environment you work in.” Energy is contagious, and when you bring it to everything you do, including your relationships in the school, it spreads. It is immensely rewarding to have students and staff now say to me, “How was your summer?”, “We are glad you are here.”, “It is good to see you.”, “What are you going to be doing this year?” Celebrate the small victories and know there are many more to come.
I can’t wait till the students come back full-time; it is like Christmas morning to me, because it makes all the planning and training worth it!
We want to thank Erica Sun for her exceptional work and congratulate her for being this month’s coordinator of the month.