Why I applied for NHC Chicago (and you should too!)

Around this time a year ago, I was very busy trying to figure out two things: what I was going to do after I finished my Masters of Public Health, and what portion of an MPH I would have if I dropped out because I didn’t want to finish my thesis (I calculated it to be about 5/6 of an MPH).
The NHC Chicago position description was posted on my school’s job listserv and it seemed like it was a good fit--I wanted to work health education in a community based setting. My only reservation was the stipend--it seemed small for to live on, and a lot of my classmates were in shock that I would even consider spending a year dedicated to service instead of applying to higher paid jobs. But then, when asking around for advice, I talked to two people who both were AmeriCorps alumni.

The first was my supervisor at my job, which was with a reading non-profit that worked out of Washington DC public schools. She did two terms of service in St. Louis, and had only positive things to say about the program and the connections she made. The second was a guest speaker who worked for the USDA Food and Nutrition department--she had come to talk to our food policy class about designing the most recent dietary guidelines. At the end of her presentation, she talked about how she got to her dream job, which she attributed to the connections she made and the commitment toward her community she learned during her term of service. Talking to both these people convinced me to apply, not only because of the connections both successful women attributed to their time with AmeriCorps, but also because they both talked about the program with so much passion and enthusiasm.

As a Community Health Educator at Advocate Children’s Hospital, I’ve gained so many skills, like screening for and talking about behavioral health problems, using motivational interviewing to talk about nutrition and exercise behavior changes, and helping patients with asthma management. I’ve learned more about the Chicago community from educating students on the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, which goes to Chicago Public Schools to provide free primary care services to underserved students. The service is sometimes very challenging and tiring, and I sometimes wonder if the patients are taking anything away from what I am teaching. But, occasionally I’ll hear success stories from patients who implemented some of my ideas to eat healthier and exercise more, or followed through with referrals to behavioral health clinics, which renews my commitment to the program and what I do.

Although I am only halfway through my term of service, I would strongly advise anyone considering applying to AmeriCorps to do so. Applying to NHC Chicago was one of the best decisions I made a year ago, as this year of service has already proven to be one of the most rewarding and worthwhile of my life.

This blog post was written byt NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Avanthi Chatrathi.

Avanthi is a Community Health Educator at Advocate Children's Hospital, Community and Health Relations Department.