Leanna Komoroske, MPH Candidate at the the University at Albany School of Public Health

Leanna Komoroske is a 2016 graduate from The College at Brockport, SUNY where she majored in Public Health, minoring in Communications. Upon graduation, Leanna began working as a fitness instructor at her local YMCA and later took a job as an Au Pair in North Carolina. In her positions, Leanna was able to work with a diverse group of individuals, mentor others, and learn first-hand how a developmental disability can affect a family. Both positions helped Leanna solidify her passion for working with children and their families, and ultimately lead to her decision to go back to school to pursue a Master’s in Public Health at the University at Albany School of Public Health. Concentrating in Social Behavior & Community Health, Leanna is also pursuing a supplemental graduate certificate in Maternal and Child Health. Throughout her graduate education, Leanna has been able to explore many topics and has strong interests in childhood obesity and mental health. Upon graduating in May 2021, Leanna hopes to work with organizations that take a systematic approach to bettering the lives of children and their families.

In the summer of 2020, I was able to use my education in creative ways to help improve Maternal and Child Health within the Capital Region of New York State during the coronavirus pandemic. 

As an intern with Brightside Up’s Health Education and Services team, I was able to work on the Farm to Preschool (F2P) program, an initiative funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education and the New York State Department of Health, that aims to increase access to locally grown produce for children and their families while reducing cost barriers. Each year, Brightside Up partners with childcare centers and a local farm or community food organization to educate children at a young age and help them develop healthy habits that will be used throughout their lives.

During my internship, I worked on multiple aspects of the program, including creating recipe demonstration videos that aligned with a weekly market. For the markets, the program highlighted a fruit or veggie from the weekly recipe in a newsletter, which was also handed out during the market and emailed to the families who utilized the childcare centers.

Other initiatives I helped with required a creative approach, as well— such as planting activities, movement activities, and opportunities for the children to taste new foods.While in past years, Brightside Up would conduct educational gardening activities at the childcare centers, this summer we switched to virtual Zoom sessions to engage the preschoolers. I also helped build garden beds at each site to provide fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs for the children, staff, and families, and helped to create garden kits that were mailed to children not physically at the site, so they could participate in remote activities and garden at home.

I was able to apply first-hand what I have learned in the classroom at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, such as the use of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals and objectives, factoring in budget concerns while creating recipe demonstration videos, and assessing the best ways to deliver information to the priority population we were working with. 

In addition, I was able to further expand my skills of helping to develop others through teaching, coaching, and mentoring, one important competency for Maternal and Child Health. This was accomplished through co-leading Zoom sessions with my mentor, in which we taught the children about gardening, lead planting activities, and explored new fruits and vegetables together, focusing on the senses for help. I was also able to develop in this area through the cooking demonstration videos, in which I provided a pleather of information per each recipe, including ingredient substitutions, fun facts, and cost break-downs. For this competency I was able to reach both children and adults, focusing on how to achieve an overall healthier life. 

I am very fortunate and thankful for the opportunities this internship presented, as well as the support from Community Care Physicians towards the school’s Maternal and Child Health Program. 

My end goal to work with children and combat large public health issues was strengthened through my internship experience at Brightside Up, where I expanded my teamwork skills, helped the community combat a well-known public health concern, developed relationships with public health practitioners, and used my education to help better the community. 

This blog post was based on a story originally authored by Leanna Komoroske in collaboration with Eirinn Marotta, Communications Manager, University at Albany School of Public Health 

Funding provided by the Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health at the University of Minnesota and the University at Albany School of Public Health Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program, which are supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This information or content and conclusions of related outreach products are those of the authors and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.