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Student Spotlight: Janessa VandenBerge

For this month's student spotlight, we are featuring a student who has attended many Scenic Rivers AHEC events and recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.

Learn more about Janessa's involvement with Scenic Rivers AHEC and her plans for the future.

Where are you originally from?

Elmwood, WI

Where did you attend/or currently are attending school?

I attended the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse for my bachelor’s degree in Public Health & Community Health Education during the fall of 2013 through the spring of 2017. Currently, I am a Health Promotion Specialist Intern at Mayo Clinic Health System - Franciscan Healthcare in the Health Promotion Department in La Crosse, WI. In the fall of 2017, I will begin my Masters of Public Health in Community Health Education at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.

What are your future career/school goals?

My future career plan is to become a Master Certified Health Education Specialist. As a health educator, I will focus on improving the overall quality of life of community members by developing and implementing strategies, as well as teaching behaviors that promote health and wellness. Additionally, I will provide community members with information, skills, and support to reach their personal health goals. The areas of interest I would like to address within the profession of public health include fitness, nutrition, injury prevention, occupational safety, environmental food safety, and worksite wellness. As a Master Certified Health Education Specialist, I will work in a hospital or healthcare setting, governmental agency, industrial setting, private business, or a college. In the field of public health, I look forward to working with a diverse population and advocate equality in a healthcare setting. Through my volunteer experience and working for various UW-L multicultural tutoring programs, I believe cultural diversity is an important aspect in today’s society.

What was your first experience with AHEC and what did you learn from it?

My first experience with AHEC was with AHEConnect as a college mentor during its first year in 2015. For the past three consecutive years, I have volunteered for AHEConnect. My role as a college mentor was to educate high school students about college experiences and career development. I feel this experience has enhanced my educational experience, as well as my personal growth and development, by demonstrating leadership and communication skills.

Also during the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to participate in Area Health Education Centers, Community Health Internship Program (CHIP). I was a Public Health Intern at the Pepin County Health Department in Durand, WI. I assisted with multiple programs and community outreach events including a Pertussis outbreak, child passenger safety checks, Get Yourself Tested Campaign, WIC clinics, Read 2 Me Program, social media messaging, newspaper articles, child care clinics, various festivals, and numerous other activities. I also attended the Wisconsin Public Health Association - Public Health Nursing Conference. Participating in the Community Health Internship Program prepared me to be a leader in my career by gaining leadership, responsibility, communication, discipline, and advocacy skills, as well as learning how to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate programs for community members. In addition, I had the opportunity work with a diverse population and advocate equality to all.

Did you continue to participate in any AHEC programs such as camp counselor, AHEC alumni or AHEConnect?

While in college, I participated in AHEConnect, AHEC Alumni Association, and the Community Health Internships Program (CHIP).

Do you have plans to take advantage of AHEC programs in the future?

In the future, I plan to continue participating in AHEConnect and AHEC Alumni Association.

What advice would you give to younger students starting to navigate their future in a health care career?

Follow your dreams! Truly anything is possible if you put in the effort and time! Also, set yourself apart from other people doing something out of your comfort zone. This will make you a better well-rounded young professional. In addition, if you are unsure of a health care career, spend a few days job shadowing various occupations and consider interning for an organization to get hands-on experience. Overall, take advantage of all the opportunities AHEC has to offer!

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