This week the team continued our recruitment efforts, mostly for Lehman Alternative and BOCES Community School. Lab member Julie Avrutine contacted the principal of Lehman, who was very receptive of the idea of implementing our health curricula into the school’s program offerings. We sent him a description of our intervention to include in the Lehman Curricula choices and determined the teaching times during which we’d be available in the fall semester. I’m really looking forward to possibly teaching at Lehman or at one of the other high schools in the area. I really enjoyed my teaching experience with the 4-H students and I have high hopes for the influence we’d have on the students we’d be teaching in Lehman.
Besides contacting local high school teachers and building connections with the local community, as I’ve begun to do with Mr. Travis Getzke at TST BOCES, I also helped Dan Polla with modifying the databases to accommodate the changes we made to the survey. In order to accommodate the new shorter survey as well as data from previous participants, we reformatted the database and fixed the new key to make sure that all the variables were accurate and consistent. Additionally, I emailed 39 surveys out to the students in New York City who are due to take their 12-month follow up surveys as well as another site in New York City, Word of Life Ministries, which is due to take their 6-month follow up surveys.
Also this week, Dan, Julie, and I went to the “Let’s Talk About Sex” documentary at Cinemapolis after working in lab during the day. We found the film to be really interesting and thought provoking. It made the point that in America, we shouldn’t treat sex like a taboo topic because whether we talk about it openly or not, people are still going to have sex. The only difference is that, when we don’t talk about it, the youth can be highly misinformed on how to practice safe sex. That’s why programs like our RTR+ curriculum are so important to society in counteracting any misinformation on sexual health behaviors. After watching the film, we serendipitously met a health teacher from the Ithaca community and we brought up the suggestion of implementing our RTR+ curriculum into the health classes that she teaches at Boynton Middle School. She showed a lot of interest in working with us in the future to educate more of the adolescents in the community on healthy lifestyle choices.
Reflecting back on the whole experience working in Dr. Reyna’s lab this summer, I appreciate how community outreach is as much a part of our lab as is data collection and analysis. From teaching at 4-H and meeting the New Roots and BOCES participants, to learning SPSS and checking our databases, I was really able to educate teens while simultaneously gaining an empirically based understanding of how they make decisions. The experience has been so enriching for me and it turned out exactly as I had hoped it would. I can’t wait to see how far our outreach will extend and how solidified our data will become by the time I graduate from Cornell and finish my work in this lab. I know that the organization and teaching skills I’ve gained, as well as the critical thinking and teamwork I’ve done, will stick with me through any public health profession I pursue in the future. I’m extremely grateful to Cornell Cooperative Extension, and of course, to Dr. Reyna, for giving me this wonderful opportunity this summer.