Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 1, 1995

Nursing Students Bring World to AmeriCorps

By Cynthia Salter
     Junior nursing student Nicole Thevenot found her way to a
new community health project in East Baltimore by way of

     Kate Griffin arrived by way of Togo in West Africa.    

     And Andy Corcoran found his way from Ghana. They and seven
other Hopkins nursing students have brought their international
community service experience to the school's nascent AmeriCorps
program, President Clinton's national service program, which puts
young people to work in inner cities and  rural areas in exchange
for education stipends.

     All Hopkins AmeriCorps participants are former Peace Corps
volunteers and have completed at least two years of community
work overseas with people whose circumstances and lives are very
different from their own. The AmeriCorps program capitalizes on
former volunteers' resourcefulness to reach low-income,
underserved and hard-to-reach groups in the inner city. 

     "Just being able to adapt your point of view is very
helpful," said Griffin, who works with a Girl Scout troop at
Rutland Transitional Housing Program.  "You have to work with the
people to figure out what they want and need.  You can't just
come in and impose what you want on them."

     For Corcoran the patience he learned during his Peace Corps
years has been a key factor in his AmeriCorps work at an
after-school program for teen-age boys at Rutland.

     "Being creative and being patient are what it takes," he
said.  "You have to be willing to look at your work and if you
need to make some adjustments, you do it, instead of trying to
ram things down people's throats."

     With faculty supervision, students design and implement
programs ranging from Girl Scout troops to childbirth classes,
from afterschool programs to drug prevention programs and basic
health courses for teen-age parents.  For their work students
earn $7.55 an hour, and, if they complete 900 hours of service
during their two-year nursing degree program, they receive a
$2,363 stipend for further studies or school loan repayment. All
AmeriCorps activities are in addition to the required clinical
time each student must perform for academic credit.

     "The pay-off to the community is incredible in terms of what
we're able to do with this little amount of money," said project
coordinator Marion D'Lugoff, assistant professor at the School of
Nursing. D'Lugoff and Lori Edwards, a student supervisor, are
experienced community health nurses with expertise in inner-city
communities.  They work closely with students designing programs
and supervising their work.

     Nationally more than 7,000 volunteers work in 57 AmeriCorps
programs. The Hopkins program is the only nursing school to
receive funding. It is part of a four-university consortium,
which includes schools of public health at Boston University, the
University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Texas
at El Paso. 

     Since its kick-off last September the Hopkins AmeriCorps
program has brought students and faculty members together with
other local health service workers to provide a variety of
programs to their constituents, including teaching participatory
health skills classes to homeless families at Rutland and working
with young parents in job programs run by the Mayor's Office of
Economic Development. The Martin Luther King Head Start has
donated space for an examination room; Baltimore City
immunization programs have provided transportation for clients.
The owner of several local fast-food restaurants allows employees
to attend health classes and receive physical exams during paid
work hours.

     "That's sort of the whole philosophy behind AmeriCorps,
getting the community and the people involved, not just relying
on the federal money," said program director Stella Shiber,
associate dean for undergraduate programs.

     The program's three-year AmeriCorps grant of $500,000 was
matched with over $1 million from other funding sources and local
agencies, Dr. Shiber said.

     "We get people in the habit of looking around at the
resources they have right in their community so they can help
themselves--that's the point that a lot of people miss about the
program," she said.

     AmeriCorps has recently come under fire in Congress and may
fall victim to proposed budget cuts. Although next year's funding
appears secure, the Hopkins program's third year funding may be
in question, Dr. Shiber said.

     Those opposed to the program say students should not receive
stipends for volunteer work.

     "I'm sorry to see that, because they're not spending a lot
of money on us and they won't save a lot of money by cutting the
program," said Thevenot, who works about 13 hours a week on her
AmeriCorps projects in addition to her full-time studies. "I
understand that volunteering is good, but I wouldn't be able to
volunteer [without the stipend] because I have to meet my living
expenses. I'd have to get a different part-time job."

     Dr. Shiber points out that the program gives nursing
students a unique opportunity for hands-on community experience
with hard-to-reach groups. And it gives the nursing school a
unique opportunity to provide that exposure.  

     "That's the payback to the nursing profession," she said.
"The health needs of large groups of people are not being met,
particularly in the inner cities. A lot of health professionals
don't know how and don't want to do this kind of work. These
students are going to leave school both motivated and able to
work in these communities."

     Dr. Shiber hopes the program will attract the attention and
support of other funding sources.

     "We're not in a position of asking for support and saying we
will do good things in the future. We're already doing good
things. We have a track record," she said.

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