During my senior year I was the Student Engagement Coordinator (SEC) for The Health Center (THC) at Walla Walla High School (WaHi). During my internship, I was the liaison between THC counselors, WaHi staff, and the Washington State Department of Health to help manage the All-Star prevention program for 9th grade students. All-Stars is a 14 lesson national prevention program that assists teenagers in decision making and planning to help them build a more fulfilling future.
A typical day as the SEC for WaHi consists of organizing papers, snacks, and gift cards; running the lesson using DOH’s curriculum; and transporting things between Lincoln Middle School and WaHi health center locations. Before each meeting, I was in charge of collecting the necessary paper works which often included the attendance sheets, the group values poster, and the relevant worksheet. We also provided snacks at lessons, so I was regularly tracked down popular snacks. As another incentive, DOH provided gift cards to promote participation, so I was in charge of collecting and distributing gift cards if students attended enough classes, turned in their homework, and participated in the final focus group. The All-Stars program was every Tuesday and Thursday during WaHi’s 7th period. The WaHi counselors and I didn’t have any technical training and we knew it was the end of the school day for these students, so we were lenient on classroom policy and allowed the kids to blurt out answers, speak honestly about certain topics (sex, drugs, and alcohol), and get up to refill their snacks whenever. This type of atmosphere made the lessons fun, unpredictable, and it arguably formed a safe space for these kids to feel welcomed and relaxed.
DOH requested Walla Walla school districts to pilot the All-Stars program to help decide whether all high schools in Washington should also implement this program. Therefore, DOH wanted several statistics to be tracked; that was my responsibilities as well. I collected quantitative statistics related to attendance, homework, and student information (age, demographics, race/ethnicity, etc) and qualitative statistics on social norms, students’ opinion on the lesson, and facilitators’ opinion on the program.
The most memorable moments were related to students participation in the “Opinion Poll Survey Game.” This activity entailed a family feud style game with questions related to high school social norms and the answers directly came from WaHi students answers from an opinion survey. For example, one questions was “what is one word to describe someone that stops a bully” and the top answers from WaHi students were “hero, kind, brave, and courageous.” The purpose of the activity was to redefine social norms. Essentially, we used answers directly from students to prove that most WaHi students find someone standing up to a bully as a good thing instead of the misbelief that their peers might look at them as a “goodie-goods.” By the end of the lesson students were lunging for the buzzer, chanting personalized cheers for their teammates, and giving 100%. It was great to see the kids having so much fun with a game containing meaningful content that is application to their current lives as high school students.
One of my favorite parts of this internship was the unpredictable aspect. Students were always surprising me with clever answers, hilarious actions, and moments of pure integrity. I felt honored to be a part of a piloting program that I truly believed helped our class of 11 students plan for their futures. They walked away with more friends, their four ideal futures, and steps to help them get to their future. I was blessed to help aid them in this development.
Kylie Nash, Senior (class of 2020), BBMB major/Mathematics minor, The Health Center at Walla Walla High School
Experiences like Kyle’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez