students at the sleep out
November 26, 2018

Engaging with communities is central to the mission of public health and a tangible way for students to apply what they are learning in class to suppport the needs of diverse communities.  In Dr. Elizabeth M. Aparicio’s Community Health Engagement class, students from diverse majors do that by planning and implementing a community health program with a local organization.

The class, which was offered for the first time this fall, is designed to get students who may not be public health majors to understand how the practice of public health can be applied in other disciplines.

“This course is modeled after one of the classes that School of Public Health majors are required to take," said Aparicio, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral And Community Health. “We’re trying to really expand and reach for students across campus.”

The class is a diverse combination of students. Twelve students are from the School of Public Health, 13 are enrolled in the College of Letters and Sciences and eight are from the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. There are also several students from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

During Fall 2018, the class worked in groups on several projects. One group volunteered at One Tent Health, and helped evaluate their model of service delivery. One Tent provides free HIV testing and referral to care for D.C. residents. 

Another group coordinated a “Sleep Out” event on campus to raise awareness about youth homelessness with Covenant House, an organization which provides an array of services to homeless and runaway youth. They aim to help young people transform their lives and put them on a path to independence.

“The projects will vary each semester,” Dr. Aparicio said. “They are based on which organizations we partner with, and what the group's needs are.”

The all-night "Sleep Out" event included discussions, a speaker from Covenant House and activities that got students thinking about the problems surrounding youth homelessness. The students also helped raise money for their adopted organization before the event.

“We raised $668 dollars in total and are donating $393 to Covenant House,” said Monica Haskell, a sophomore in Public Health Science and a participant in the “Sleep Out.”

Haskell said she told some of her friends about the project as it was being planned, and found out that some struggled with homelessness as adolescents, she said. The discussions deepened her understanding of the problem, and drove her to work harder on making the “Sleep Out” a success.

“If Covenant House is able to help these youth, that’s such an amazing cause,” she said. “And I'm so grateful there’s an organization like Covenant House out there helping youth.”

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Elizabeth Aparicio