Guest Post: Twice the service, twice the impact

Yasheika Allen and Kimberly Feliciano completed the 2017-2018 term with the National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps program, an initiative of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. They each served 1700 hours and 10 ½ months at the Coalition – Yasheika as an outreach coordinator, working with pregnant moms and prenatal care providers to improve birth outcomes, and Kimberly as a health educator, presenting on nutrition and opioid prevention. They reflect on their personal and professional growth and what two AmeriCorps members at the Coalition meant for community services and programs.

As our service term comes to an end as National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps members, we have taken some time to reflect on this past year. Although we come from different backgrounds and have dedicated a year of service for different reasons, we walk away with a better sense of self while continuously learning about the issues surrounding public health. Though our service term offered a wide array of different experiences and insight, we also experienced commonality when it comes to exploring and solidifying career paths and learning the value of service. 

In the beginning of our service term, we pondered career possibilities such as occupational therapy, health promotion and nursing – just to name a few. Even though the paths ahead of us were blurry, we knew that we had a passion for improving the health of others.

But what led us to our next steps?
Our service year experience exposed us to career paths previously unthought of. Learning from guest speakers sharing their personal career paths solidified our plans to provide health education to the underserved community.
There is organizational value in the Coalition having an AmeriCorps position to serve unmet populations, which enhances their mission of leading “the community effort to reduce infant death and improve the well-being of children, childbearing women, fathers and their families in Northeast Florida.”

For the 2017-2018 term, circumstances were different. In previous years, the Coalition hosted one AmeriCorps member to provide community outreach, Medicaid assistance and Healthy Start enrollments. However, this past cohort the Coalition was fortunate enough to house two AmeriCorps members.  An additional person allowed for programmatic service opportunities to be implemented, such as nutritional presentations at the Magnolia Project, as well as spearheading the Coalition’s newest initiative “I am a Healthy Start Employer”.

Having two AmeriCorps members not only benefited the Coalition, but it allowed us to learn from each other, thus enhancing our own individual duties. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our mentors, Coalition staff, clients and all the people who influenced us along the way. Every safe sleep presentation, smoothie preparation at the Magnolia Project and each personal interaction impacted our service term and will continue to follow us along our paths. In retrospect, our service term would not have been the same without all of you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to strengthen families, build communities and save babies.