Every year, Beach Cities Health District works with students, mostly from local universities, on projects which impact the work we do in the community while helping the students gain valuable skills and experience.
Chris Wheeler has interned in the Youth Services Department for two semesters and has very palpable energy and passion for the job. He works directly with, Carrie Anne Blevins, LiveWell Programs Manager, who offers a rave review, “Chris has a passion for public health and making a positive impact in our community. He provides a wide range of support to our department, from researching literature reviews, supporting our LiveWell programs to helping lead students in classroom activity breaks. He always has a positive attitude and has a strong work ethic. He brings great energy and humor to our team which is greatly appreciated.”
What do you do in the Youth Services Department?
I’m interning for the LiveWell Kids program and the gardening program in Beach Cities elementary schools. I help out in planning the classroom presentations, teaching kids about mindfulness, the importance of physical activity and eating in a healthy way.
Can you talk about your work with substance abuse prevention?
Right now, I’m conducting formative research to identify strategic partners for a potential substance abuse program for the Beach Cities–reading study after study about what programs are the most effective and comparing this evidence-based research with the environmental conditions of the community here. I’m also identifying the risks regarding underage drinking and substance abuse.
What do you enjoy most about interning at BCHD?
I enjoy interacting with people and feeling like what I’m doing has a positive value to others. When my grandmother was dying, she asked me, “Did my life matter?” After that, I thought about that question a lot and knew I needed to make a change. I knew I wanted an emotional reward for my life’s work. Shortly after, I started taking extensions classes so I could go back to school to receive my Master’s degree in public health.
What are your future professional goals?
I hope to work at BCHD! (wink wink) But if that isn’t in my cards, I would like to create a non-profit like BCHD, with community level involvement.
What is best about interning at BCHD?
Getting to have a positive impact on a community and knowing those impacts are on an individual level. I enjoy going to the schools and interacting with and teaching the kids healthy habits. It’s a way to give positive association towards healthy behavior and experiences that the kids may not have access to. Also, there’s a great group of people here that work very hard to help others!
What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering and isn’t sure if it’s for them?
I highly recommend volunteering to help out your community! It’s so rewarding, impacting and creating the type of community that you want to see. Don’t be afraid to volunteer. No one has ever been upset about someone who volunteers his or her time.
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies consist of grad school right now! When not in school, I run my dog 20 miles a week and ride my bike. I also like to garden (my wife and I grow most of our own food), hike, anything that gets me outdoors.
Thank you for all the time and effort you’ve given to make a positive impact in the community, Chris! We are so thankful to Chris for his service to the community on these important projects!
Written with thanks to Ashley Smaldino