Beginning in the fall, 15 Wake Forest University community members will get to explore public health in a real-world context by participating in Public Health AmeriCorps, a federally funded program designed to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.
Wake Forest was recently awarded a grant for over $214,000 by AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to serve as a host site for Public Health AmeriCorps, which aims to train the next generation of public health leaders.
State and local organizations received more than 80 grant awards totaling over $60 million. Wake Forest and Appalachian State University were the only North Carolina-based higher education institutions to receive funds.
“We’re very excited about this because we see it as an opportunity to impact the local community, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, and to connect with students who are interested in public health,” said OCCE Executive Director Marianne Magjuka. “Each participant will complete 900 hours of service at a mobile health clinic, partnering with sites that are doing incredible work, and the members will be paid.”
Magjuka said the 15 Wake Forest students will be based at one of the University’s six partner sites: Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Uninsured Clinic; The Community Care Center; The Forsyth County Health Department; The Shalom Project Medical Clinic; The Twin City Harm Reduction Collective; and Winston-Salem State University’s Mobile Behavioral Health Unit.
“Those partners are serving individuals in areas the CDC has labeled ‘highest vulnerability,’” Magjuka said. “Working with them will enable our students to make an impact in our community, which is exactly what our office attempts to do. This initiative also enables our students to reflect on their career aspirations and determine whether they want to enter into a life of service.”
Officials in Wake Forest’s Office of Civic & Community Engagement (OCCE) applied for the grant in the fall of 2021 and were notified of the award on March 29.
Students have until May 8, after final examinations, to apply for one of 15 available slots with Public Health AmeriCorps. To apply, students should go here.
Megan McLeod Trawick, deputy director of VolunteerNC in Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, said the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service is excited to partner with the OCCE to implement the Public Health AmeriCorps program in Forsyth County, which will bring much-needed resources to the area while providing AmeriCorps members the opportunity to improve the lives of their constituents.
“As communities across North Carolina continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic, programs like Public Health AmeriCorps provide a way to focus on improving health education and increasing access to medical care for low-income individuals and families,” Trawick said. “We look forward to working with Wake Forest University and supporting this important program.”
Wake Forest has had an AmeriCorps VISTA program for many years, and “this new Public Health AmeriCorps investment will expand the meaningful work already in motion,” said Karen Dahl, AmeriCorps senior advisor for COVID-19.
Members will work closely with Shelley Sizemore, the OCCE’s director of community partnerships and co-director of Wake’s Public Health AmeriCorps program, and serve this fall as well as in the spring and summer of 2023. Besides the hands-on community work, they will be exposed to monthly professional development opportunities with public health and nonprofit leaders.
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