VISTA Guest Posts: A Healthy Behaviors Journey
Becoming a VISTA with MOST was an exciting change of pace for me in my life. Departing from two years of world travel for my Masters degree, I returned to the US with a penniless uncertainty that left me anxious for the future and bored with the continuous search for something meaningful. I had just returned with a master’s degree in public health and the idealistic vision of most recent graduates: I am going to positively impact the world.
When I was accepted for the position at MOST, I was excited for the possibilities and impact I could have on those within Maryland, but slightly apprehensive that my days would be limited to e-mails and phone calls rather than direct interaction. My passion for health promotion, health education, and discussions of health inequalities, had me worried that my impact would be limited to the eloquence of my words behind an e-mail.
Well, fear not! Being a statewide network requires much more than eloquent e-mails, though they are a great tool to utilize. If my four months at MOST have taught me anything thus far, it has been the importance of relationship building, and breaking down any mental barriers that may be present when entering that sometimes intimidating meeting room of directors, government heads, and incredibly knowledgeable colleagues. Relationship building includes attending these meetings and conferences, speaking with individuals, presenting about MOST’s projects and initiatives, and, ultimately, utilizing presentation skills I thought would be pushed to the wayside for my current VISTA position.
A shining example of the necessity of relationship building combined with presentation skills would be our work with the Maryland Food Bank and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Through a grant from Giant, the Maryland Food Bank provided MOST with a grant to implement the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s (AHG) healthy out of school time (HOST) framework in 30 sites across Maryland. This framework assists those working with K-12 children in afterschool programs to facilitate healthier eating and increase physical activity through 11 standards. These sites take an inventory of their performance in each of these standards in order to create a set of goals and an action plan to reach them. MOST assists in this process through site visits, trainings, and any other technical assistance or professional development needs that these organizations may require or desire.
This work allows MOST, and in particular me, to engage with individuals from the Y of Central MD, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Police Athletic League, allowing an outlet for my presentation skills, as well as a means of seeing firsthand the amazing work of all of these individuals and organizations. And while coordinating interactions and meetings with these various organizations requires a lot of the behind the scenes work I mentioned earlier, the end result makes it all worth it.