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5 Ways our AmeriCorps Dare to Reach

WithinReach’s Healthy Connections luncheon is this week! It’s a chance for us to celebrate the positive change we have made for Washington families, and acknowledge our supporters in the community. But our impact extends even further! Since 2009, we have hosted forty-six AmeriCorps and VISTA service members, many of whom have gone on to become incredible professionals and community leaders.

We reached out to five of our AmeriCorps alumni to see where they are now and to talk about how their year of AmeriCorps service at WithinReach helped them dare to reach!

DTR_AC_Kevin

What are you doing now?

I’m the Financial Stability Manager at United Way of Snohomish County, overseeing programs that help families save money and become more financially secure.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

My AmeriCorps service at WithinReach dared me to go places most people like me never go, listen to stories that mostly go unheard, and to believe in my own ability to make a difference in the lives of others. It dared me to reach past stereotypes and barriers to serve my community with compassion and creativity.

 

DTR_AC_Mira

What are you doing now?

I’m a first year medical student at the University of Washington in the School of Medicine, investigating what makes us sick and what makes us healthy on the individual and community level.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

My AmeriCorps service taught me to look at the whole person, and dare to question my assumptions of their story, their habits, and their beliefs about their health and happiness. It dared me to listen deeply and laugh often, connecting with and advocating for a patient’s goals for their wellness.

 

DTR_AC_Anisa

What are you doing now?

Alongside finishing up my Master in Health Administration (MHA) degree at the University of Washington, I am completing a multidisciplinary pediatric training program at Seattle Children’s Hospital called the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) fellowship. As a fellow, I am assessing our weight and wellness services and designing processes to improve access, care delivery, and the patient experience for adolescents and their families.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

With a background in public health, I am particularly interested in using business management as a catalyst for operational and quality improvements that increase timeliness and affordability of care – especially for vulnerable communities that I worked with in the past at WithinReach. My time at WithinReach opened my eyes to many of the socioeconomic structures and institutional and individual barriers that contribute to health disparities. This experience inspired me to “dare to reach” for all children and families, as well as dare them to reach their optimal health.

 

DTR_AC_Donna

What are you doing now?

As a Program Officer for the Foster Care Initiatives team at the College Success Foundation, I work with our Governors’ Scholarship recipients who have experienced foster care. We want to ensure they are connected to and supported by campus and community resources so that they can excel and succeed in their post-secondary education aspirations.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

Through my AmeriCorps service at WithinReach, I was provided the training and support I needed as I dared to reach my goal of connecting families to food and health resources that would help alleviate the vulnerabilities they face. The experience I gained while serving in the community on behalf of WithinReach continues to inspire me in my daily work and life. Today, “Dare to Reach!” describes my desire to use education and advocacy as vehicles for social justice as I support youth and young adults to become self-sufficient and change agents in helping their communities thrive.

 

DTR_AC_Travis

What are you doing now?

I have the pleasure of working at a homeless shelter for DESC, an organization that values the harm reduction approach. My position incorporates a lot of exciting roles; I help clients navigate the shelter environment, mindfully enforce rules, celebrate client successes, and try to support people who are struggling.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

It was while serving as an AmeriCorps member at WithinReach that I had my first glimpse of what real need looks like. I saw, for the first time in my life, single mothers struggling to provide for their children, lonely men without food or emergency contacts and far too many young people struggling to access the assistance that they were entitled to. It was staggering to see this happening in my own country. At WithinReach, I had the privilege of helping diverse clients navigate assistance programs. I couldn’t do the work I do now if it wasn’t for what the amazing team at WithinReach taught me. There is nothing stopping us from reaching for a better world.

 

Tags: access   Advocating   AmeriCorps   Assistance   Barriers   change-agent   Community Health   Dare to Reach   DESC   Education   families   Health Disparities   homeless   United Way of Snohomish County   University of Washington   VISTA   Vulnerable populations   Wellness   WithinReach   

Mapping the Connections that Make Families Healthy

At WithinReach we make the connections Washington families need to be healthy.  These connections happen at many scales, and sometimes they involve connections between partner organizations.  One such effort involving WithinReach and two of its partners, the Department of Health (DOH) and the University of Washington (UW), helped to create a new suite of tools that can promote healthy families across Washington.
A year ago we recruited a student from the UW Department of Geography to help us map immunization data in Washington State, recognizing that the state’s immunization registry is a vast, underutilized data cache.  One of the most compelling ways to make data accessible and usable is to map it.  Our original effort to map immunization data in Washington State had a goal of providing local health jurisdictions with a tool they can use in targeting their limited resources in areas of need.  These initial efforts grew to include a team of talented students from the UW who evaluated the completeness of data in the state’s immunization registry and created a tool that allows the state to produce meaningful maps (representations of data) with very little effort.
Ultimately, this project involved two essential types of connections:
#1: Connecting partners: WithinReach connected colleagues at the UW and DOH, managing the project and relationships that culminated with a presentation to Washington’s Secretary of Health, John Wiesman, and many others from the state’s Office of Immunization and Child Profile.
#2: Connecting data to practice: at WithinReach, we believe that our work must be informed by evidence and data; in this case we embodied this principle by working with our partners to make data accessible.  Work informed by evidence has the greatest potential to create positive, sustainable change.  Each partner shares the goal of thriving, healthy families in Washington State, so finding a way to connect our efforts in a data-driven capacity was a privilege for WithinReach.
This partnership benefitted all organizations involved: the DOH came away with substantive new tools and knowledge, the UW students had ‘real life’ experience that they could draw upon in their careers, and WithinReach has positioned itself to broaden how we conduct our work of connecting families to health resources.  Our next goal is to create dynamic, interactive, scalable maps that can be used by local health and residents of Washington to inform their decisions and enhance the knowledge of the communities where they live.
Health happens by working at all scales, starting with the individual but working up to policies that can create structural changes.  At WithinReach we appreciate being positioned to work across these levels to ensure optimal health across our state.

Tags: Department of Health   Immunization data   Mapping   University of Washington   

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