Meet the 2013 HSC Summer Interns!

June 24, 2013

Every spring, summer and fall, we are lucky to take on a new class of Healthy Schools Campaign interns. We are so excited to have them share their knowledge and passion for changing the world with us.

Every spring, summer and fall, we are lucky to take on a new class of Healthy Schools Campaign interns. These students provide us with their unique skills and contagious enthusiasm, and come from the worlds of food science, public health, communications, education and more. We are so excited to have them share their knowledge and passion for changing the world with us.

These five talented budding school health advocates are joining us this summer to help with research and writing, and will have the opportunity to meet with members of the school community. You may see them helping out at our upcoming events this summer, and if you do, don’t hesitate to stop by and say hello and share your ideas about school health. Read on to find out more about their educational backgrounds, their goals and what they’ll be working on at HSC.

Liz Stalfort fell in love with food in the place many people fall in love with food: Italy. After spending part of a summer immersed in small-town life there as a high school student, Liz became fascinated by the community’s relationship with food. “It’s such a huge part of life there,” she says. “Everyone takes daily trips to the farmer’s market, and everything is fresh. They really care about what they’re preparing. I’d like to bring that to people here.”

Ever since, Liz has been particularly passionate about studying global food systems and working to change them for the better. A Baltimore native and junior at Wake Forest University, she studies Sociology with double minors in Women’s and Gender Studies and Environmental Studies with the hopes of understanding key issues around food and health disparities in their social and global contexts. While at HSC, Liz is serving as the Communications Intern, writing and researching blog posts and written content, as well as meeting with members of the community for various projects. She is working on a blog series about food, mental health, social-emotional learning and eating disorders, and says she wants to be part of a movement that changes cultural attitudes about what “healthy” is.

During the school year, Liz lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one of the nation’s largest food deserts, and volunteers with a backpack program that helps children in the community. She also works with the Wake Forest school garden and volunteers at the local Humane Society.

Cynthia Libby is a senior at Eastern Illinois University studying Dietetics, a subject that has allowed her to become more in tune to what goes into the foods we eat. For example, in a food science class she took at school, students were required to follow a brownie recipe, and in one version use oil, and in the other, use fresh puréed stone fruit. She says she now can taste the difference, and much prefers the one that used the fruit. She has become more aware about how the even slightest move towards fresher, healthier ingredients can make a huge impact.

Cynthia began her educational career as a Kinesiology major, and says she was always very interested in health. But over time, as she took more classes and explored the world of health, she learned that she enjoyed nutrition education more and particularly sought out opportunities to work in schools. “My goals are to focus on educating children on how to live a healthy lifestyle,” Cynthia says. “If we don’t teach this generation the importance of health and work to fix health disparities affecting them, who will be able to help the next generation?”

A native of Orland Park, Illinois in the Chicago suburbs, Cynthia will graduate this winter and pursue her Master’s degree in Dietetics the following fall. She stays busy at school with her work with the Student Dietetic Association, and is a student member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In her spare time, she loves to cook and try out new recipes—right now, she says she’s experimenting with healthier ways to make pizza, one of her favorite things to cook, and has been creating some new quinoa dishes.

Angela Armijo comes to us from sunny Tucson, Arizona, where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Public Health. She originally began her academic career in Social Work, even earning a Bachelor’s degree in the subject from Loyola University Chicago in 2012. But she became more interested in learning about and working to combat health disparities, and transitioned over to Public Health.

During her undergraduate career at Loyola, Angela worked with a number of Chicago organizations, including Common Threads and the Howard Area Community Center, where she helped develop a nutrition curriculum. She is interested in food security, and has worked in the past with local food banks and farmer’s markets to understand issues surrounding food systems. While at HSC, she is working on a toolkit to help school administrators engage parents in creating a healthy school environment, and satisfying her passion for urban planning by working on the Space to Grow schoolyard initiative.

“I think that with the work that I do, it’s the strong sense of frustration that fuels wanting to make a change,” she says. “When I see disparities or inequalities, and I think about why no one is doing anything, I think, ‘How can I help make it better?’ Creating awareness about these issues is more than important, but completely necessary.”

When she’s not pursuing her studies, Angela trains for marathons and is a big advocate of active transportation, and even worked in Tucson with a program to promote and create non-motorized transport options for low-income areas of the city, including an education and bike safety component. This project required completing a needs assessment and program implementation plan, which entailed riding bikes around Tucson during class, which sounds like a pretty excellent assignment.

Adriana Yepez wants to help create the next generation of healthy Chicagoans, at school and at home. A Chicago native, she grew up attending Chicago Public Schools, and now has a nephew in kindergarten at a CPS school. She says the desire to make sure he has a bright and healthy future is a big motivator for her. “I want to make a difference for him and kids like him,” she says. “I see what is happening in our schools and I know we can continue to make changes for the better.”

Adriana, a senior Food Science major at the University of Illinois, says she was inspired to pursue food science because of her interests in chemistry and biology. Because of the versatility of the field, exploring the worlds of nutrition and health led her to HSC, where she is working on a research project on physical education and the benefits of physical activity, as well as a report that translates that importance to stakeholders. She is also looking into alternative classroom reward systems–ways of rewarding students for good work without using junk food as a motivator.

In addition to her studies and her work at HSC, Adriana is a member of the Association of Food Technologists at the University of Illinois, and next year, will serve as Assistant Choreographer of Dance2xs Caliente, a Latin dance team at the university. She says dance has always been a longtime passion and she enjoys exploring different styles. 

Natalie Nowak started off her academic career in Psychology, earning a Bachelor’s degree in the subject from DePaul University in 2010. Now she’s taking what she learned about the mind as an undergraduate and applying it to studying food, nutrition and all kinds of health matters. “I’ve always been pretty healthy,” she explains. “My family is very health-conscious, and I’m really interested in the idea of food as medicine, how what we put into our bodies affects our health not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.”

As she was deciding what to do with her passion for nutrition and encouraging the leading of healthy lifestyles, she realized she wanted to work with children and with schools and make an impact on the next generation. At Healthy Schools Campaign, Natalie is conducting research related to the Fit to Learn and Cooking up Change programs, and working on some national policy issues, particularly an upcoming bill relating to education health services. “I’m motivated by even the smallest changes,” she says. “If people can agree to make the smallest thing better, it can work to something greater.”

Natalie will have a busy summer ahead of her, as in addition to her work with HSC, she will be taking prerequisite courses toward her Master’s degree in Nutrition and working as a lifeguard on the weekends. She has a passion for cooking, and fittingly, she also volunteers for Common Threads, another fantastic Chicago nonprofit that teaches children in underserved communities how to cook fresh, healthy meals.

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Healthy Schools Campaign is now accepting applications for fall interns. If you’re interested in applying, please check our internships page for details!