UNC students planning 11th annual visit to Tyrrell County

Published 1:31 pm Monday, February 3, 2020

By Meredith Braza

In March 2019, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spent a week helping out in Tyrrell County and a new group will be in Tyrrell County March 8–12, 2020. This will be the 11th year UNC has been with us over spring break. What a record for a university and community to collaborate together!

Last year’s group had 25 students and five faculty members from UNC’s School of Nursing, Division of Physical Therapy, College of Arts and Sciences and Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences. It was the largest group of students ever. Below is a description of the projects completed in March 2019. Please let us know how we might work with you this March, 2020.

In collaboration with elementary school teacher Terry Donoghue, UNC groups created fun fitness activities for all students over two days about the importance of recycling, healthy eating and hearing protection. Audiology students also performed hearing screenings for over 90 students under the guidance of school speech-language pathologist Hillary Russell.

UNC students also led a dance and cardio interval training workout with middle and high school students in partnership with teachers Deshaun Holley and Sarah Hunting-Stehlin. In addition, the students provided education at the high school regarding healthy sexual relationships, smoking and vaping cessation and overall healthy lifestyles. The team also mentored over 30 high school upperclassmen, in collaboration with high school faculty members Bill Ziegler and Jennifer Westcott, on college life and associated topics including financial aid, application criteria and portfolio creation.

Trip participants partnered with Dee Dee Bullock at the Tyrrell County Senior Citizens Center on two days to provide blood pressure measurements, fall risk assessments, home exercise recommendations, hearing screenings and ear wax removal for residents. UNC students also visited 14 homes to socialize with residents and provide hearing screenings, mobility assessments, blood pressure checks, medication reviews, health education and household repair services. The UNC team provided donated items including nightlights, non-slip bathmats and new walker and cane tips for residents to promote greater safety and independence.

UNC students worked with Sue Griffin from Columbia Medical Center to conduct a workshop for individuals in the community with diabetes. The workshop included a social outdoor workout and tips on how to create a healthy mason jar salad.

UNC students enjoyed beautification projects including painting and gardening at Pocosin Arts and trail cleanup at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Students touched up the parking lot and sidewalk paw prints at the elementary and middle/high school with fresh paint. In addition, the UNC team helped Henry Hill with work needed at the Emergency Food Closet.

The students and faculty are immensely thankful to Tyrrell County residents for their warm welcome and willingness to partner. Thanks also to Karen Clough, Terry Donoghue and Oliver Holley for the bus tour introduction to Columbia. Many thanks to the community members and leaders who discussed strategies for building a culture of health at an evening meeting.

This opportunity for UNC students to serve in a nearby county highlighted how the social determinants of heath, including access to care, economic opportunity, education, food and environment come together to impact the overall health of a community. As future healthcare practitioners, students will use each of these interactions to work to positively influence client care and the health policies that affect our communities. UNC is excited to continue this tradition of service learning in years to come.

Please contact Dr. Oppewal at soppewal@unc.edu if you would like to help us plan our March 2020 activities in Tyrrell County.

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