Teaching about Health over Zoom

By Frances Murray, FCLC 2022

Peer Health Exchange volunteers behind a table in a high school

During my junior year at Fordham, I began working with an organization called Peer Health Exchange (PHE). Their mission is “to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy decisions.” College aged students serve as teachers to discuss health, sex, drug, and mental health education with high school students. PHE gave students the knowledge on how to interact with health providers so that the students would be able to self advocate and communicate their own needs. The program primarily looks for educators from marginalized communities so that the students are able to feel comfortable discussing topics that may not be brought up in class or at home. PHE exchange also provides resources and teaches the students how to utilize them. 

When I first heard of PHE, I became very interested as learning and discussing health is important in my life. I am a natural science major and pre-Med because I admire the body and understand how mechanisms and medicines function. While I am undecided about what field of medicine I want to study, I have always been interested in women’s health because of the way that the doctor must build a relationship and learn about the life of the patient. I have also decided to minor in anthropology because it allows me to study the way that medicine, institutions, and society are impacting people’s lives and how we live in the world. As I began to look into PHE, I felt that I could really benefit from volunteering because it would allow me to use my own knowledge of wellness and work with younger students to understand it in their own ways. In many ways, PHE aligned with a lot of my beliefs about how health involves the entire life of the patient. A 15 minute doctor’s visit could never begin to unravel this, and so by teaching people to examine and understand their own health needs, they are more able to seek correct treatment and explain themselves to professionals. 

While working with PHE, I taught 3 classes at various high schools in the city over Zoom. I had one or two other educators that I would normally be working with and I reported to coordinators from Fordham who had been with PHE for more time. Each week I had a lesson that was constructed by PHE to teach to the students. I normally adjusted the information a bit so that it fit the needs of the class. For example, one teacher I worked with was very invested in PHE and so we would meet before class to make sure the students would understand the material. Her students came from places of low socioeconomic standing and it was a sensitive topic for them to talk about. So we would substitute those parts of the lesson by talking about race or gender, topics of high importance that the students were able to relate to much more. In addition to teaching, I would meet with Fordham’s PHE division with weekly meetings over Discord. We would meet to talk about events and messages for the week, and we would learn about topics that would be brought up in the class. These would be lessons for the educators on topics like being transgender, race marginalization, and helping the kids to open up over Zoom. 

Working with the students was the best part of PHE, but I truly feel like I got cheated because of COVID. The most fun in the classes would be when the students would comment and as questions, but it was really hard being over Zoom. At the very end of the year, some kids were back in class and the participation increased. Some of the classes had a lot more participation than others. However, two of my classes were freshmen students so they had never even met their classmates in person. Getting them to open up enough to ask questions about mental health or sex could be very hard for this reason. All of my host teachers expressed excitement about going back to school in person because of the toll of staying at home on the students. At times we would also talk about more complex issues like microaggressions, privilege, or  intersectionality, and at times it was hard to gauge whether or not these topics were sticking. I personally had remembered learning about these things in high school, but  it took until college for me to really process and understand the reasoning behind these ideas. Despite the challenges, so many students did love to talk. We had great conversations about alcohol and genitalia at 8:20am!

Overall, I really enjoyed working for PHE exchange. Like any job or volunteer work, there is so much communication, learning, and interaction that are required. I was happy to share my own knowledge and even more so when the students would ask thoughtful questions. It was a great experience and many times I felt myself wishing that I had this type of health education when I was in high school.

My Internship at Busted Halo

By Jillian Rice, FCLC 2022

Busted Halo website logo

After a spreadsheet full of nearly 30 internship applications, most of which I got no response from, I was feeling dejected about finding a position in my dream field of editing. I’d been an editor on our school newspaper for three years, but apparently that line on my resume about my strong eye for detail wasn’t enough for publishing houses or other similar publications to think I was right for the job.

Then came an email from Busted Halo, the media company owned by the Paulist Fathers at St. Paul’s next door. Would I like a Zoom interview? I sat down at my desk under my loft bed in between studying for my Greek final which I had later that day, and long story short, I got the job. I began working remotely for them in June 2021, and I’ve continued (still remote) through the fall semester. My life plan is to be an editor — somewhere, somehow — and as a Catholic Studies concentrator, this was pretty perfect.

We interns do a variety of things for the company, from posting on the website to answering Instagram DMs, and I even spent a lot of time adding captions to YouTube videos. I went into it expecting to learn more about editing in the real world (and I have; no question about it), but I’ve picked up so many more skills along the way. 

Since we’re a small team, I’m never simply editing, though the editors do play to interns’ strengths (and they don’t give me graphic illustration work to do all the time!). I’ve written more tweets than I thought one human could write (but I am now very familiar with TweetDeck) and even been a guest on a radio show!

As Esme said on one of her posts, coming into a place and creating graphics for them isn’t just making pretty pictures. They have a brand (or in our case, a set of colors on Canva), and anything you make has to be visually appealing and not too busy. As someone with very little graphic design knowledge besides what I’ve picked up by osmosis on the newspaper, even seeing that a graphic I made is getting posted on Instagram is still a thrill. 

Working at my internship is just like being at Fordham, since two of my three bosses graduated from Rose Hill, and both my fellow interns over the summer were Fordham students, too. It seems that a lot of media publications in New York like hiring Fordham students, which bodes well for us newspaper kids as we graduate! 

At Busted Halo, when the news came out that Fr. McShane was retiring, we had a little gossip session as to whom we thought the next president might be. A few weeks later, we were sharing Fordham parody videos that different comedy groups created while we were each at Fordham. It’s conversations like these that make me a bit less terrified to graduate and leave the world of schooling.

This internship has given me very marketable skills like social media writing and engagement, and working with experienced professionals has helped me understand and hone my (already plentiful!) love for grammar even more. I’ve also learned that trying to juggle an internship, many hours a week at the campus newspaper, five classes, and time to relax or sleep isn’t easy — my advice to anyone reading this: please be honest with yourself about how much you can handle in a semester, and remember to give yourself time to enjoy Fordham and New York (our campus, after all) on top of your other duties. 

A Summer Spent Uncovering More

By Ritamarie Pepe, FCLC 2022

Uncovering More website logo

Professional social media is challenging — despite what your boomer parents may think. It’s more than just pretty pictures and emojis. It takes high caliber organization, research, creativity, project management, and much more. With my previous communications experience, especially in planning, leading, and designing social media initiatives, I have been privy to the hard work that goes into creating successful social media content. However, the knowledge of the difficulty of social media creation and curation could not prepare me for the time and energy I would (willingly and excitedly) pour into my social media internship with Uncover More.

Uncover More is a guide offering hyper-local and tailored experiences on what to eat, do, see, and shop in NYC at your fingertips through social media accounts, a newsletter, and the UncoverMore app! The founder and CEO is Arianna Sartzetakis, a proud Brooklynite who balances her full time job in finance with this passion project. 

My first lesson with Arianna and Uncover More was the importance of networking. Arianna is the sister of one of my best friends — therefore, I had heard a lot about Arianna and Uncover More. I had been following Uncover More for years before I had the opportunity to connect with Arianna during a Q&A panel I organized for my online publication, grain of salt mag. Although my role was to moderate the conversation between Arianna and our other guests, I couldn’t help but grow more and more personally fascinated with Uncover More’s origin story and the work Arianna puts into the brand behind the scenes. I wanted to know even more. So, after the Q&A event, I reached out to Arianna to set up a coffee chat in our neighborhood to hear more about the Uncover More story, the in’s and out’s of working in social media, and ultimately, after falling even more in love with Uncover More, to pitch myself as a potential intern. Months later, I look back on that moment and pride myself on having the courage to ask for the opportunity to work with Uncover More and gain invaluable experience — you never know what may happen by simply chatting with people and asking questions!

One of my first assignments for Uncover More immediately thrust me into the world of content creation. Arianna asked me to attend the Flower Festival in the Meatpacking district to gather TikTok and Instagram content — which sounds simpler than it was. Not only did I have to worry about creating engaging and aesthetically pleasing content, I had to do so while dealing with large and bustling crowds who kept interrupting my picture perfect shot. My simple task of taking video and photography content turned into a deeper dive on camera angles, camera functions, and most importantly, taking the shot. By “taking the shot,” I generally mean putting myself out there; in this scenario, I am referring to moving past my insecurity about how “weird” I looked to outsiders while trying to grab the best content, and even getting over having to be a bit pushy in the crowd in order to secure what I needed. Social media content creation is certainly not for the faint of heart, and you must be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone! Even though this experience definitely challenged me, there was nothing better than seeing my video and photography featured on the Uncover More social media channels.

Besides content creation, I focused a lot on caption copywriting. As with content creation, there is more to caption writing than meets the eye. Uncover More has a specific caption writing style, and captions are very well researched in an effort to “do the research for you so that you can spend more time uncovering!” This research can include information like special deals, age restrictions, extra costs, fun facts, and more. Consequently, a lot of time is spent researching each recommendation. Furthermore, this information must be transformed into consumable, concise, and engaging information “bites” written in Uncover More’s friendly and whimsical, yet informative, tone. It definitely took a lot of practice in the beginning, but this experience has been incredibly valuable in improving my writing skills for different styles and across different social media platforms. 

My internship with Uncover More has provided me with the opportunities and experiences I was looking for in order to improve my communication skills. With most of my communication experience in newsletter writing and brainstorming and planning social media content and initiatives, I felt like I was missing the “hands on” work that I needed in order to understand every step of the content creation and curation process. Working with Uncover More allowed me to get down to the “nitty gritty” of professional social media, which will only make me a better professional and leader in the communication industry.

Besides the professional growth, I appreciate Uncover More for the personal growth it has inspired within me. I’m a workaholic, and sometimes find it difficult to step away from my work in order to enjoy what are supposed to be the best years of my life. But when your “job” encourages you to explore the city you were born and raised in and love so deeply and motivates you to keep “uncovering” more in your everyday life, it does not feel like work — it feels like a celebration of life.

Covering the 2021 NYC Mayoral Race

By Grace Getman, FCLC 2022

Zoom meeting with 2021 NYC mayoral candidates and a New York Times reporter

I knew I was in trouble getting pizza with my friends one night. The conversation had turned to the upcoming 2021 NYC Democratic mayoral primary, and my friends said that they could name all eight leading candidates. Why, you ask? Why could a group of four out-of-staters with little interest in local politics know so much about this race? Because I hadn’t stopped talking about it for this entire past semester. 

Last spring, I interned at The Gotham Gazette, a New York City news outlet that calls itself “The Place for New York City Policy and Politics.” The Gazette (GG as it’s affectionately known) prides itself on providing comprehensive reporting on New York City political affairs, with a particular emphasis on issues and races so local that GG might be the only outlet covering them. Depth and breadth were prized over more superficial (but more readable) write-ups at other places. 

As a Reporting Intern, it became my job to write up summaries of the various minutiae of the candidates’ platforms, and to cover small forums at which the candidates appeared. My shortest article was around 2000 words. My longest? Over 6000. 

To tell the truth, I’m no Pulitzer Prize wannabe. As an Urban Studies major, I discovered GG as a part of a New York City Politics class this fall. I found out about the internship while working (read: procrastinating) on my final and offered my student newspaper experience as my bona fides, despite never having taken a journalism class in my life. 

I’ve been drawn to the world of local government for a while now. It is the realm where our day-to-day lives are usually shaped. The garbage we avoid on the street, the parks we go for runs in and the potholes we complain about are local governmental affairs. And yet we treat politics at lower levels of government like Legos we step on in the dark, only acknowledging its existence when we stumble into problems. How many people only realized the influence of city budgets on police reform issues last summer? Or the role of the mayor in New York City after de Blasio started closing schools during COVID?

What drew me to GG was an opportunity for a crash course in New York City politics, and boy, did it deliver. 2021 is viewed as being a major year in the New York City political world, with the pandemic, the introduction of ranked-choice voting and a crowded Democratic field swirling together to create a new political landscape for the city in 2022. If there was a time for me to hop on for the ride, this was it. 

Writing about the candidates’ different platforms (such as Kathryn Garcia and transit, or Dianne Morales and the economy) and hearing their ideas at forums was an incredible bootcamp and learning experience for me as someone who wants to work in some capacity in the municipal political landscape. From movers and shakers in New York City to different policies and programs, I was given a real chance to learn as I wrote. 

My passion as I discovered this world, of course, became my friends’ problem as I talked their ears off about it last spring, from who the candidates were, their various foibles at forums, or how cool or far-fetched I found their platforms. If any of my victims are reading this blog currently, thank you, and I appreciate your sacrifice. I’m sure they were as excited as I was for the June primaries, even if only for the chance to stop hearing about the race.