A Fond Farewell to Our Spring Intern, Hayley Gleeson!

May 28, 2013

From all of us at Healthy Schools Campaign, a huge thank you to intern Hayley Gleeson!

Over the past few months, many of you may have seen our spring intern, Hayley Gleeson, working tirelessly behind the scenes at events and functions. She has collected your evaluations, set up and taken down workshops and generally been an amazing, driven and positive presence in the HSC office.

Hayley is getting ready to finish up her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and then will head back to London to start her next chapter. But before she does, she sat down with us to reflect on her time at HSC. Congratulations, Hayley, and best of luck with all your future pursuits!

What made you decide to apply for an internship at HSC?

I’m doing an academic internship program at Northwestern. We received a long list of Chicago-based public health organizations. Most of the internships they offered were in administration, and I wanted to do something more on-the-ground and community-driven. I really liked that HSC’s work is so grounded in Chicago, and when I had my phone interview and learned more about what HSC does, I found the projects very meaningful and it seemed like a good fit.

What kinds of projects have you been working on?

I’ve been doing a lot of assessment of our programs, especially Parents United for Healthy Schools programs, as well as Fit to Learn. I’m learning a lot about how to know if a program is effective and taking valuable feedback from parents and teachers.

I’ve also been working on principal engagement. I've been researching evidence-based strategies and collecting best practices from school stakeholders to best help school staff involve parents in school-based health and wellness initiatives. I’ve been learning a lot about why parents do or don’t get involved and the barriers that may keep parents from getting involved in their schools. It’s interesting to see a program in the very beginning stages, too. It’s exciting to be a part of the process at this stage. I’ve been doing a lot of research, reading success stories about how to get parents excited and involved in helping create a healthier school environment that supports student learning, looking at studies and best practices, listening to webinars, to figure out what these barriers to parent engagement are. Our next step will be to hold a focus group with principals to hear more about their experiences with parent engagement.

What have been some of the highlights of this experience for you?

I definitely liked working on the Parent Leadership Summit. It was neat to see the development of that from beginning to end, learning how to determine speakers for an event and working with speakers. And then being there on the day of the event and seeing it all come together. I was working on the assessments, so I was able to read all the really amazing feedback from the parents.

I also love the general atmosphere and the size of the organization, and the focus on community, especially. When we held the event with the Surgeon General earlier this spring, I really saw how the organization is getting out into the community and getting to know these communities and their issues on a personal level.

Whenever I go somewhere with Rosa (Ramirez, Campaign Manager) or Guillermo (Gomez, Vice President of Urban Affairs), the parents know them on a personal level, and they know the parents and the teachers. It means something to the people who are involved, and that makes a huge impact.

Overall, I definitely feel like I’m contributing – it’s funny how people will often say, ‘I’m just the intern.’ I haven’t ever felt like ‘just the intern.’

What have you learned from your experience that you will take back with you in your academic pursuits and your career?

I was just talking about with Rosa, and she said it’s really easy to use statistics in your work, and resort to statistics and have that be it. But if you don’t go out into the community and see for yourself how things are going and talk to people and share ideas, you don’t know what’s happening and you can’t make those important changes.

Working here has also helped me realize that I will always want to work for small community organizations.

You’re graduating at the end of June and heading back to London. What’s next for you?

I’m graduating on June 21st and then heading back to London to study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I’ll be pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health (MSP), with a focus on health promotion. The program is only a year, and then I hope to get a job in health promotion for a community-based organization.

What will you miss most about Chicago?

It’s funny that you mention it, because I have America and Chicago bucket lists saved as Google Docs on my computer. I’ve been trying to get all the touristy things in in the last month or so – the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, I’ve done a cheesy photo shoot at the Bean in Millennium Park. This weekend I’m planning on going to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris wheel and then taking the water taxi over to the Sears Tower to do the Skydeck. Just being as big of a tourist as you can imagine!

One thing I really love about Chicago and about going to Northwestern is the pride. The students at Northwestern are all really proud that they go to Northwestern, and everyone in Chicago seems like they’re really proud to be from Chicago and they love being from Chicago. I went to a Cubs game not too long ago, and everyone was cheering and screaming for their team, and I have never seen that kind of intensity before. Also, it’s such a diverse place and there’s so much to see and do. Even if I lived here for 50 years, I don’t think I could possibly see everything.

———-
From all of us at Healthy Schools Campaign, a huge thank you to Hayley for all her help with assessments, event planning and much more. We wish her the best of luck in her career!

Healthy Schools Campaign will begin accepting applications for fall interns soon. If you’re interested in applying, please check our internships page on the website for details!