Meet Jasmine Bland, a Tufts University alum. She volunteered with Peer Health Exchange as a health educator, co-coordinator and a senior health educator from 2011 to 2014. Bland joined PHE as a freshman in college at the insistence of her roommate. “At the time, I was grappling with a challenging transition from an under-resourced high school to a resource-rich academic environment. Being a part of PHE allowed me to look back at my high school and community through a different lens– I could finally understand how going without critical information about holistic wellness and decision-making further amplified the health disparities that were already taking a toll on my fellow community members.”
HOW DID PHE IMPACT YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
PHE helped me to understand that these issues are not intractable and that I can work towards health equity in communities like the one I grew up in. Ultimately, PHE jumpstarted my passion for health equity and introduced me to the public health tenets that inspire my career in public health policy today.
WHAT MEMORY STICKS OUT TO YOU FROM YOUR TIME WITH PHE?
Being a co-coordinator was an incredibly rewarding experience, and the first day of teaching that year was definitely memorable. My fellow co-coordinator and I had been working towards that moment for months, and we were so excited! By the end of the day, first-time teachers were seeking us out to talk about how well of their workshops went. Hearing all of the health educators speak about students asking questions and enthusiastically participating in the workshop was truly humbling and reminded me of how special the PHE program is to both the high school students and the volunteers who teach them.
- Fun fact: the first day of teaching that year was also my birthday. Being able to experience this was quite the birthday present!
WHAT DRIVES YOU PERSONALLY TO STRIVE FOR HEALTH EQUITY?
While I was in college, one of my good friends from high school was struggling to stay afloat in her classes because she was going blind. She couldn’t afford her insulin and was losing her vision as a result. Of course, she needed to stay afloat in those classes because a college diploma would increase her chances of finding a job with stable health benefits as an adult. Health equity relates to everything we do (school, work, housing, etc) and I’m reminded of that whenever I think about that friend. No one should have go without the care they need for any reason.
No one should have to choose between textbooks and insulin. It’s my personal mission to chip away at these inequities to ensure that all people have a chance at wellness.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PHE VOLUNTEERS?
PHE volunteers should take the time to learn a little bit about the communities in which they teach. Learn about whom you are teaching, and you’ll be able to better appreciate your students’ experience. It’s also important to avoid a deficit-based lens to teaching. The students are coming to the table with so many strengths, and teaching PHE workshops is an opportunity to celebrate those strengths while supplementing with some new knowledge and skills.