Working together

Collaborating with local and state organizations throughout the year, students at Lock Haven University recently presented at the 2013 annual PA Public Health Association and PA Rural Health Association Conference.

Students in the college’s Health Science Department were given the opportunity to work with local organizations, including STEP Inc. and the county Health Improvement Coalition.

One group of students worked with the youth collaborative project involving STEP, Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action and The Center. Nicole Collins, one of the college students involved, said the group was able to gain valuable, hands-on experience with “at-risk” children.

She said real-world experiences, such as this one, allows students to grow and better prepare for a career.

“Each experience has contributed to my growth as a professional by providing me with practical experience and networking that will positively affect me as a future professional in the field of health and physical education and community health,” Colllins said.

A second group also presented at the conference on their work with the health coalition.

To help continue improving community health, the students contacted the more than 70 health coalitions in the state that are volunteer-based in order to discuss practices.

The students sought out the coalitions’ organizational structure, funding sources, non-profit status, sustainability plan and operational costs.

“We did that to find out how they sustain their programs,” said Alyssa Tennant, Lock Haven student.

As Beth McMahon, Lock Haven professor, explained by discussing these topics with a number of coalitions, the students were able to create best practices to improve operations in all coalitions.

McMahon added that this “time-intensive research,” allows coalitions to examine how they could improve and see weaknesses and strengths of organizations around the state.

“I think it’s great to get a holistic approach to what is going on,” said Ryan Billinger, Lock Haven student.

Tennant said working with the community on projects gives extra incentive other than receiving a good grade.

“The things that we are learning in class are things that people are doing it for their job. It’s not just a grade,” she said.

McMahon said receiving experience in the field is valuable to students and she constantly is looking for opportunities to have the students gain hands-on experience.

And while the classroom work is important, she added that it has “limitations,” when trying to give students a realistic field experience.

“(The field is) … the laboratory where they’re going to learn,” she said.