Name: Megan Ling
Hometown: Petoskey, MI
College Attended / Major: University of Michigan, Psychology/Gender and Health
HealthCorps School Placement: ASTEC Charter High School, Oklahoma City, OK
Fun Fact: My middle name is Margaret and I have a strong Irish heritage. In Ireland, Megan is Margaret so my name would be Margaret Margaret.
HealthCorps: How did you become involved with HealthCorps?
Megan Ling: Growing up in Northern Michigan, being active and spending time outdoors was the norm. As a kid my idea of fun was going for a hike, swimming at the lake, or taking a visit to the farmers market. Little did I know, I was forming healthy habits that I would carry with me for years to come. It was during college when I realized that this lifestyle was unique; not everyone has access to fresh produce or a healthy environment at his or her fingertips. I saw a need for change. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to easily access a healthy environment regardless of where they live or how much money they make. When I stumbled across HealthCorps I knew it was how I wanted to spend the next two years of my life. Having the opportunity to work directly with youth through sharing my passions with them seemed like the perfect fit.
HC: What has been the highlight of your placement so far?
ML: I have loved getting involved with the community here in Oklahoma City and exposing my students to different opportunities that are happening in their backyard. One of my favorite days was when we participated in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk last year. A large group of students and staff worked together to raise money to help fund initiatives that promote prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. The students were able to raise over $1,200 through hosting a school dance and selling various healthy snacks during lunch. The day of the event, we walked with hundreds of other Oklahomans to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living.
While I’ve enjoyed planning and running events like the one I just shared, the little moments each day have truly been some of my favorite. The comments that students or staff members share with me in passing or in a visit to my office make every day in this position worth it. When an individual comes to me and is excited to share that they tried a green smoothie for breakfast or that they convinced their sister to join them in a fitness challenge, those are the things that make me really happy. Those conversations are what that I’m going to hang on to and remember the most after my time with HealthCorps.
HC: Outside of the classroom, what are some of the activities that you are involved with?
ML: My favorite part of each week is when I have the chance to interact with my students outside of the classroom. I enjoy running the HealthCorps and Cooking Clubs and coaching the soccer team. The HealthCorps Club is a group of students that meets during their lunch hour one day a week to plan events in the cafeteria, around the school, and in the community. Each week they continue to amaze me with their creativity and eagerness to take on new projects. A few things they accomplished last year included starting at recycling initiative during lunch, volunteering at the Memorial Marathon, and submitting a winning dish at the annual Chocolate Festival – proving that eating healthy can be delicious! Each week in Cooking Club the students come to me with a recipe that they’d like to try and then I show them any healthy adjustments we can make. It’s been fun watching them experiment new foods and seeing their confidence in the kitchen grow!
Another area outside of the classroom that I’m focusing on this year is creating more wellness events for our staff. I feel that students are more likely to make healthy changes if they see their teachers getting excited about the health and wellness movement as well. Throughout the year there will be numerous fitness challenges, yoga classes after school, and oatmeal bars in the morning. We’re also working together to integrate brain breaks into all the classrooms and revamp our concession stands.
HC: What do you plan to pursue after your service to HealthCorps is complete?
ML: My plans after HealthCorps are still up in the air. Through the experiences I’ve gained as a coordinator, I know that I want to continue my career in the field of public health, specifically focusing on fighting the childhood obesity epidemic. Eventually I plan on going back to school to work towards my Master’s in Public Health, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to seeing where life takes me.
HC: 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?
ML: I have found that the best way to create a lasting impact is to focus on building strong relationships and figuring about what makes people tick. You will not be successful in promoting change if people don’t trust you first. Taking a little extra time to get to know someone and let them know that you truly care about them goes a long way.