As a high school student in Hawkinsville, Georgia, Helley Patel was involved in a youth leadership program developed through the Pulaski County Archway Partnership, a UGA program that connects rural Georgia communities to university resources.
This summer, Patel reconnected with Archway to complete the internship required for her undergraduate degree in health promotion.
She and two other College of Public Health undergraduates were placed as virtual interns with Archway Partnership programs in rural Georgia communities.
Identify resources for communities
“Colquitt, McDuffie and Washington counties had existing health and wellness initiatives which amid COVID-19 now required all hands-on deck,” said Sharon Liggett, an operations coordinator with the Archway Partnershhip, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “This is what the Archway Partnership does, identify UGA resources to benefit Georgia’s communities.”
Patel worked with a team in Colquitt County to create user-friendly social media posts to help promote maternal health best practices and reach pregnant women in southwest Georgia with CDC messages on pregnancy during COVID-19.
In addition, Archway was able to help 13 CPH students identify an “observation” required for their foundations class.
Katie Hein, a faculty member in health promotions and internship coordinator for the College of Public Health, reached out to Liggett when the students learned their summer internships, which they had lined up during the previous semester, were cancelled.
“I immediately began to contact sites that might be able to work with students remotely,” Hein said. “We have health promotion students who become Archway Professionals after graduation, so I’ve known about Archway for a long time, and I use it as an example of an excellent community health model in my community health class.”
“If the students this summer had not found a site with Archway, I would have kept working to find other sites for them. Worse case scenario would have been to delay graduation, but I sure didn’t want that to happen,” said Hein.
In Colquitt County, Patel worked with Archway Professional Sarah Adams, who graduated with a degree in health promotions from UGA’s College of Public Health, and also holds a Master of Public Administration from UGA.
Working with Adams and a nutritionist from the Southwest Georgia Public Health District, Patel learned about maternity health issues, barriers to healthcare for pregnant women and possible solutions.
“She is conscientious about her work and sincerely wants to provide something that is useful to the community,” Adams said. “She has a heart for service and is flexible in considering different ways to support communities in rural Georgia. Her name will certainly be one to watch for in the future.”
As a student back in Pulaski County, Patel was the first recipient of the Robert Herman Leadership Scholarship, named for a former chairman of the Pulaski Archway Partnership executive committee. Jason Lord, then-chairman of Pulaski Tomorrow, a leadership group that grew out of the Pulaski Archway Partnership, called Patel “a great example of the kind of young person that will lead Pulaski County in the future.”
After graduating from UGA, Patel plans to enter the dual Master of Health Administration/Master of Business Administration program at Georgia State University. She wants to work for a hospital system in Georgia after graduation.
“Ideally, it would be nice to come back to central/south Georgia so I can have the opportunity to give back to the community where I grew up,” she said. “Receiving a scholarship from Pulaski Tomorrow was a very special moment for me. It helped to fund my education which was a big step in my career. I am grateful to come from a community where education is considered a priority.”