A group of Cedarville nursing students last semester helped out the Springfield Promise Neighborhood Association (SPNA), which focuses on the academic and social success of youth in Springfield, Ohio.
Rachel Parrill, associate professor of nursing at Cedarville, took a team of six senior nursing students from the public health nursing class to the Springfield community in order to partner with SPNA’s current work. The public health class requires students to develop an intervention program for a health need of a large people group.
“It broadens their perspective and gives them an opportunity to practice a different type of nursing and to see the value of nurses in the community,” Parrill said.
While there are multiple clinical opportunities for students taking the course, Parrill said the partnership with SPNA was valuable because it was something Cedarville students could join the community in doing, rather than just being a one-time thing.
“We were there just to encourage and support, not there to do a one-time thing that was just left by the wayside,” Parrill said. “What’s happening with Springfield Promise Neighborhood is a much bigger initiative, and we are privileged to be a small part of that and to participate with them.”
Katherine Alexander, a senior nursing major, said SPNA empowered the people of the Springfield neighborhood.
“(SPNA’s) goal was not just to come in with a bunch of outsiders and change the community, and just kind of cover up the issues that were going on,” Alexander said. “(It was) to have (the community members) be the leaders and show them that they can change their neighborhood.”
Cedarville nursing students have partnered with the SPNA for five years on a variety of different initiatives. Last semester’s students focused on the importance of physical activity.
“The neighbors themselves have for several years been talking about opportunities for physical activity, but there hadn’t been any traction,” Parrill said. “I said, ‘Well, let’s see what we can do this semester.'”
The students’ goal was both to encourage the people of the Springfield community to exercise and to see how the people could implement physical activity in order to become a healthier neighborhood. The students worked closely with SPNA and the community to do so.
The students participated in SPNA’s Promise Fest, a day for the community to come together at the beginning of fall.
“We were able to set up a booth there and have jump rope and hula-hooping,” Alexander said. “(The nursing students) were able to target the kids and get them starting to have ideas of how they can exercise, how they can be active (with) hopes to encourage their parents and just get a feel for what the neighborhood thought about (exercise).”
At Promise Fest, the six nursing students distributed a survey regarding the community’s current view of physical activity.
“We took (the survey’s) data and brainstormed on how we could implement better teaching, better opportunities, better information for the community, so that they could hopefully be more active and view physical activity as something that they could implement easily into their daily routine,” Alexander said.
The students created pamphlets with information, such as locations of places to exercise and diabetes facts. At the end of the semester, the students left these educational materials so the people of that neighborhood could implement the resources however they chose.
Among the resources designed by the students was a 21-day challenge.
“We put together each day a physical activity they could do,” Alexander said, “something that wouldn’t take much time but that they could do in hopes that in 21 days, it would be more of a routine for them.”
While the students’ time with SPNA ended before the community implemented their resources, Parrill said SPNA posted the 21-day challenge on its Facebook page in January. The challenge wrapped up Jan. 30.
The nursing students were also able to partner with an experienced nurse who attends a church in the Springfield area to bring exercise classes to the Springfield community with the help of the allied health program at Cedarville.
“We were able to help them facilitate what they could do in the future,” Alexander said. “(It) was neat to be able to make (a) connection (between the church and Cedarville University) and see how that involved into, hopefully, a program for the community.”
Alexander said her nursing group found that while the Springfield neighborhood requested help with improving its health and physical activity, fitness was not foremost on the community’s agenda. Rather, an issue for SPNA is violence, Alexander said.
Alexander said she was surprised by the difference in safety in a community just a few minutes from Cedarville.
“Here we see people running outside and exercising freely, but if someone in Springfield Promise Neighborhood (was) to just run outside, people would just automatically assume that something is wrong,” she said. “You can’t just say, ‘Go run outside for 15 minutes.’ There aren’t safe places to go run outside.”
In response to the neighborhood’s safety concerns, some of the resources the students provided for the community suggested safe locations for exercise, such as the local YMCA.
“(We had to realize) their perceptions of what’s going on and what their priorities (were) and (learn) how to take those in and use those in a way that would best benefit them with how we’re trying to implement exercise,” Alexander said.
In working with the neighborhood, the students learned from SPNA’s example Parrill said.
“There are so many strengths in that community,” she said. “We get to see them live out loving your neighbor.”
Alexander said the clinical experience allowed the nursing team to put into action what they learned in their classes while serving the community.
“The opportunities are out there to be able to use what God is teaching us at Cedarville,” she said. “There are opportunities all around us, whether that be in CU, 20 minutes down the road, in Springfield or overseas. We just have to be willing to be open to them and step out of our comfort zones.”
Rebekah Erway is a sophomore English major and reporter for Cedars. She is a die-hard Disney, Veggie Tales, and Lord of the Rings fan and enjoys speaking in a British accent.