Networks of Support: The People and Places That Need Us Most

Allante Moon

Allante Moon

Master’s Student in Health Behavior and Health Education, Mabel E. Rugen Scholarship

I had an incredibly busy first year at Michigan Public Health.

I'm an MPH candidate in Health Behavior and Health Education interested in higher education and public health. I've crafted my experiences here to build career skills around various intersections of public health and education.

During the academic year, I worked at the Center for Educational Outreach training student organization staff to do outreach with diverse K–12 students. I also got involved with the first-generation student group here at the school and with the Public Health Students of African Descent (PHSAD) group.

Over spring break, I traveled to the US Virgin Islands with the Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST) to do hurricane relief support and to Texas to work on a campaign for Tu Salud Si Cuenta (Your Health Matters), a project that promotes healthy lifestyle choices in the Rio Grande in order to improve physical health. We distributed surveys and provided analyses to see if the organization could utilize health behavior theories to better inform the community with its outreach efforts.

Being so involved helps me stay connected to the community and keeps me focused on good things—opportunities to apply my talents and skills.

This summer I was on internship at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad, learning about environmental pollution and how it affects local communities.

Being so involved helps me stay connected to the community and keeps me focused on good things—opportunities to apply my talents and skills.

I focused on practice and personal growth in the field this first year and will focus on augmenting my research skills in the upcoming second year. This fall I have a job at the Michigan Injury Center, doing research with Dr. Quyen Epstein-Ngo on sexual violence, intimate partner violence, predatory behavior, and substance abuse.

My own experiences drive my commitment to changing the narrative for people from underrepresented populations.

I'm from Ecorse, Michigan, and attended Eastern Michigan University, earning an undergraduate degree in health administration with a minor in social work. I was a McNair Scholar, a US Department of Education program that prepares undergraduate students for doctoral studies through engagement with research and other scholarly activities, like attending professional meetings. I presented at scholarly conferences and published an honors thesis—things that gave me soft and hard skills at an early stage in my academic career.

My sophomore year at EMU I heard about Michigan's Future Public Health Leaders Program (FPHLP). I was accepted and spent the summer of 2015 working with the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation to promote healthy eating in Detroit neighborhoods. This was my introduction to the field of public health, as I taught elementary students about nutrition, exercise, and growing fresh food. We tended community gardens, sold the produce at local farmers markets, and learned entrepreneurial and community-building skills.

It was difficult to figure out college and financial aid applications. These were not part of my collective family knowledge.

My experience with FPHLP was a significant part of why I chose Michigan Public Health. I was so happy to be introduced, through PHSAD, to a community of other students of color who knew the challenges I'd been through. I really bonded with them, and they're now trusted colleagues, even family, here at Michigan.

For a first-generation student pursuing an academic career, finding a support network makes a huge difference.

I was raised by my aunt, who made it clear that not doing well in school was not an option. From an early age, I was very focused on academics, and it felt really good to excel.

Still, it was difficult to figure out college and financial aid applications. These were not part of my collective family knowledge. How much do things cost and when do we apply? How do transportation and meal plans work once I'm on campus? I had to research everything.

It feels like a family here.

The McNair program took me through a lot of that, and that remarkable level of support continues here at Michigan with the First-Generation College Students at Michigan organization. It's amazing how many members of these groups are student leaders in so many ways around campus. Collectively, we possess a deep reservoir of knowledge, so we know how to help each other. Staff and doctoral students help us out too.

Some of my old FPHLP friends will be reviewing my personal statement for doctoral program applications. I'll be reviewing theirs. It feels like a family here, with food at every meeting, familiar faces in every class, and fun social opportunities like watching Black Panther together. With their support and my own hard work, I feel confident every day as I develop as a public health educator.

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