Photo courtesty of Meghna Singh.

This summer, senior Spanish minor Meghna Singh is completing an internship with Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose, California.  This opportunity has confirmed her interest in helping communities through health education and has helped her gain further experience in the field.  Meghna, a Community and Global Public Health major, who is double-minoring in Spanish and in Education for Empowerment, said she sees many connections between her internship experiences, U-M academic programs and organizations, and future career plans.

“Sacred Heart Community Service is a non-profit that does incredible work,” she remarked.  “It is very much public health-oriented in the sense that they are addressing many different social determinants of health, well-being, and safety.  They address things like transportation, food insecurity, clothes, housing and utility assistance, and education programs for youth and families.”

“San Jose has a huge Spanish-speaking population, she continued. “A good portion of their clients and participants either speak Spanish or Vietnamese, so I knew I would be speaking a lot of Spanish through volunteering.”

Meghna said she has learned a great deal through the three main roles in her internship position: as a Volunteer, an Ambassador for Community Outreach, and an Educator.

As a Volunteer with the organization’s food bank and clothes closet, Meghna helped bag food and assisted community members in navigating the warehouse.

“Especially as time went on, the full-time staff learned I could speak Spanish and they trusted me with more responsibilities, like doing inventory and showing new clients around to tell them all about the resources they have at Sacred Heart,” she remarked. “It was very community member-facing, it aligned with my public health interaction goals, and I was able to speak Spanish for the majority of my shifts in the day.”  

“In addition to that, I was trained as an Ambassador, and I did trainings about anti-bias, power, and privilege. I learned about what community organizing looks like and how do you elevate the voices of community members more so than your own; which are things we talked about in my Public Health program, so I loved that,” she said.   

“I then learned about all the programs that exist, what resources are currently available, who can community members contact, and where do they go,” she said. “So when I would be in the warehouse talking with community members who maybe only came there for food, we were able to share this with them and connect them to [additional] resources.”

“My third main role just started recently,” Meghna continued.  “I wanted the opportunity to speak more Spanish, so I joined the education department and shifted from solely volunteering there to helping teach one of their programs.  It is fully in Spanish, and my supervisor speaks to me in Spanish, and all the e-mails are in Spanish.”

“This program is called Safe, Secure and Loved, and it is for parents of newborns to around three years old,” she said.  “It is all about resilience, and how can you build resilience in parents, how can you build resilience in kids, and give kids the tools that they need to become resilient young people and then adults. We talk about meditation, mindfulness, yoga, being present, and the brain.  I’m helping to teach weekly workshops – where I’m helping to talk about that curriculum with community members, in particular, moms, who are attending this training virtually.” 

Reflecting on her summer internship as a whole, Meghna said, “this has been a huge eye-opening experience in terms of being able to communicate in Spanish, and [learning about] what community members need, and learning new vocabulary. I feel like it is all going to be useful to be able to communicate more and have more confidence in my ability to communicate.”

Meghna said through her internship work, she also learned first-hand how critical funding is to non-profit organizations.

“I wish there was more funding and investment in community-based organizations and in public health because they are really the ones on the ground doing the work on the day-to-day,” she said.  “That’s more so the birds-eye view perspective, and I can’t necessarily change funding, but obviously I can contribute to the mission and the work.”

Meghna said the Spanish 283: Spanish for the Medical Professions class she took with María Dorantes prior to her internship gave her a solid foundation from which to begin her work at Sacred Heart Community Service and also connected with medical interpreting work she has been doing.

“I really liked Spanish 283 because it was super-engaging, you do a lot of activities to help reinforce the vocabulary, and we talked about cultural humility, which is huge, and something we talk about in Public Health,” she said.

Learning about “how different communities respond to topics about health was really helpful,” Meghna said. “I really appreciated this class. It was especially cool because the previous semester I had just gotten a certificate in community interpreting with a medical specialization.”

Meghna earned this interpreting certification through the Community-Led Interpretation for Medical Equity (CLIME) U-M student organization, which partners with a Michigan Medicine interpretation program. Additionally, with CLIME, she volunteers as an interpreter with a student-run free medical clinic in Pinckney, Michigan, helping patients and medical teams communicate with each other.

“That has been a really cool way to be able to continue to keep learning medical vocabulary and also to give back and volunteer in the community,” she said. “I was interested in CLIME’s equity focus and decreasing language barriers and language gaps, and if Spanish is a part of my career going forward, it is a really good skill to have.”

Meghna said her post-graduation plans involve “continuing in a community-based organization, one that is addressing beyond just one facet of health and well-being.”

Meghna remarked that her ideal position “would combine Spanish, Education, and Public Health” in a setting where she is “applying public health approaches, considering equity, and being able to work with communities.”

After working for a couple of years, Meghna plans to return to school for her Master’s in Public Health, potentially in a dual-degree program where she can earn a Master’s in Social Work simultaneously.

For current RLL students considering pursuing internships in the future, Meghna said she encourages students to seek out opportunities to work with “community organizations that are serving so many people and have the capacity to have multiple departments. I really recommend that, especially for the folks who are exploring. And even if you think you know what you want to do, still explore. That’s the advice I would give.”