Serena De La Cruz is one of our recent graduates. Serena graciously took time out of her busy schedule to share her experience during her internship as well as advice for future interns.
Can you tell us a bit more about your internship?
I completed my internship with the Area Agency on Aging in Northwest Arkansas. My job was to work with multiple senior activity and wellness centers in Northwest Arkansas. Every month, I would develop an interactive presentation on one of the monthly health observances and present these at each of the center's throughout the month. In addition, I wrote an article for the monthly newsletters. I was also fortunate enough to be able to develop my own semester long project. I conducted needs assessments in the senior centers, took that data to find the most needed topic of education, and used that to develop a final event for the seniors. I found a dietitian to come and talk to seniors during a lunch and learn. She covered nutrition specifically for seniors and answered questions. I took what I learned from program planning through evaluation to do this. I was very fortunate to have such a wonderful educational background that prepared me for this activity.
Which Health Studies class has been the most useful during your internship?
It's hard to choose just one class that was the most helpful. I really feel like I used all of my classes combined! If I had to choose one that was specifically helpful during internship, it would be Health Communications. I was working with a population of adults over the age of 60 so how you present the information was crucial. Everything from best format and clear speaking to determining health literacy levels had to be just right in order to reach this population.
What piece of advice do you think is most important when looking for an internship?
Find a place that works with a population that you are passionate about working with. I have always enjoyed working with the elderly and therefore knew that I would wake up every morning excited for my day. I found a site that also allowed me to really take control of my experience and I think that doing so made a huge difference for me. I was able to develop my own activities while also working closely with my preceptor on things that she felt would be helpful to me.
What piece of advice is the most important during the internship?
Network, network, network. This is your chance to meet and develop relationships with others in our field. They will be your "in" after graduation. Take advantage of any opportunity because you never know who you will meet. I got my first job through a woman that I met while attending a class that my preceptor couldn't make it to. She emailed me about 3 months after I graduated with a job posting forwarded from one of her acquaintances. One month later I had a job as a project coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas Tobacco and Drug Free Coalition.
Can you tell us what you are doing now as a Health Studies graduate?
As mentioned previously, I found a job as a project coordinator pretty much straight out of school. I had a wonderful 8 months working in the non-profit world and managed a tobacco grant through the Arkansas Department of Health. I have to say, I would not have been able to do that job without the grant writing class. I had to write a grant proposal to get re-funded!
In March, an opportunity presented itself that I couldn't pass up. I am now working for TrestleTree (a health transformation company) as a health coach. Every day I get to help people with everything from tobacco cessation to weight loss and stress. I am fortunate because I get to see my work make a direct impact in people's lives.
How did your internship help you in obtaining a job and prepare you for your job?
In terms of obtaining a job, I would have to go back to the networking piece. I really do believe that getting out there and meeting new people is key. I came across my current employer through an informational interview that I set up during my internship. When I think back to how my internship prepared me for my job, I feel that it all comes down to personal and professional development. The time that I spent actually implementing what I learned in my classes was both gratifying and encouraging. I went into my first job very confident that I had the skills to do great work.
*One last piece of advice: Sit for the CHES exam before you graduate if you can. The information is fresh in your mind and it is becoming more and more important to have when applying for jobs!
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