Student Experiences Summer 2019

Molly Kessler


Field work in community outreach education

My experience as an intern for HBCAC was both eye opening and life changing. While learning about how the environment has an impact on our health, I was able to apply this to my everyday lifestyle, and teach others to do the same. I also learned more about myself while visiting outreaches and meeting new people.

As one who has never known how much the environment can affect our health, I began the internship wanting to learn. I did research on my own in order to catch up to my peers, aware that they had prior knowledge. I knew that this internship would bea way for me to help others in  the community, while also helping myself by acquiring life saving knowledge. I grew an interest that I have never had before while reading articles and viewing Instagram posts about the environment. I had no idea that helping the environment and helping others could go hand-in-hand. 

After gaining helpful and important knowledge, I began reaching out to the community, and passed this knowledge to kids in “at risk” environments. This task was difficult for me at first, knowing that I am more on the quiet side. But, I knew what needed to be done and the only way to achieve my goal of teaching others would be to speak up and step outside my comfort zone. Each week of playing games and teaching kids, I gained more confidence and a sense of pride in myself and in my community. I always looked forward to waking up early for the outreaches, knowing that I was making a difference and making myself a better person as well. I no longer felt nervous about running a game or explaining a fun fact I found during my research because I know that I could not grow if I did not push myself to branch out. 

Helping the community has been a passion of mine since I was in elementary school volunteering at local events with my family. I never knew what I wanted to do with that passion until I began my internship at HBCAC. I always admired those who are able to start and continue a nonprofit organization to better the community, and even the world. I realized that this is something I am interested in as well. Dedicating time and energy to something of one’s own creation is incredible, and it’s even better when you know you are helping others.

This experience over the summer has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. Now that school has started, I feel confident when talking to others, speaking at school events, and running meetings with my school clubs. HBCAC has truly brought out the best in me, and this experience has given me the skills I need to one day change the world.

Shyann Maragh

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

 This summer I interned under Dr. Sarah Evans at Mount Sinai in Environmental Medicine and Public Health department two days a week. Along with Sal, I worked with two other students,Nick and Rebecca. Sal, Nick, and I worked on creating an environmental tool kit on general environmental health and personal care products. We made a series of infographic videos on sunscreen, hair products, bugspray, an overview view of environmental health and a separate video on children's environmental health. I learned a lot of information from the many doctors, researchers, interns and any other people I encountered this summer. Prior to starting, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to be doing and I thought I was just going to learn about climate change; but I’ve listened to so many interesting lectures including and beyond climate change. The talks about environmental justice, air pollution from space, and looking at the expo-some from teeth were some of my favorites to name a few. Every Wednesday we got to sit in on a P.E.H.S.U. meeting. Families from our region that had questions regarding environmental health, whether is was the effects of mold on health, or lead/mercury exposure, were presented here. Each day's lunch was either  served to us during a lecture or we were able to go out and purchase lunch. Every Wednesday there was also a farmers market which I was always excited about. Although the commute was a little long, I really enjoyed going into the city and feeling independent. 

One thing that will resonate with me in the future is how passionate everyone is at Mount Sinai. Everyone I’ve met either through simple greetings in the office, in the Pehsu meetings, or other lectures, is committed to spreading knowledge and changing policies for the greater good in the environmental realm. For example, Dr. Collins gave a presentation on communitology that particularly stood out to me, and he explained healthcare inequities that are present in New York City alone, and how the healthcare system in the United States is set up for failure. Dr. Collins further explained the many factors that went into health and how poverty was a detrimental one. As a result, Dr. Collins has a program called cyclopedia where he along with other volunteers/interns go to schools within East Harlem and take kids bike riding throughout the city to get them in touch with their surroundings, have good role models, and stay active, which all have a positive impact on health. Another example is how the researchers, physicians, residents etc. thoroughly discuss the best option for the cases they receive at the weekly pehsu meetings. They go back and forth for at least 20 mins, considering everyone’s opinions trying to get the best answer to give back to the family. To me this showed how much they care. These are a few examples of the dedication and empathy that I’ve observed this summer, and it’s something I aspire to demonstrate during the school outreaches this year and in my future overall. In addition to seeing how passionate everyone was, I could also see how much they valued science and facts. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to go to Mount Sinai this summer!