Opioid Overdose Prevention with Student Nurses

By Alison Spillane

From April 1st through 3rd, I participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University at the University of California at Berkeley, representing my Commitment to Action. This experience helped me in ways I hadn’t anticipated.  Multiple forums were held, and topics ranged from addressing mental health stigma to bolstering your commitment through fundraising or capacity building. I was able to attend a panel on mental health, and the insight surrounding the development of supportive communities for individuals living with a mental health diagnosis really resonated with me. Many opiate users experience stigma surrounding their use and are often too afraid to seek support from health care professionals when they need it most. My commitment seeks to address not just physiological overdose, but more importantly, provider bias that limits access to health promotion in the first place. Preventing an overdose starts with supporting drug users so they may reduce the potential harm that drug use places on their bodies. The continuum of care includes nurses in community, acute, and emergency care settings. Creating more inclusive, supportive care environments that are free of judgment and stigma serve to enhance access to care for drug users. Attending CGI-U reminded me that one of the greatest public health challenges our society faces is stigma. Whether it’s related to mental health, HIV status, reproductive choices, or drug use, stigma is harming, and at worst, taking lives. As health professionals living in an era with strained medical spending and sky-rocketing rates of heroin overdose, one of the greatest interventions available to us is addressing and eliminating our own biases regarding our patients. Their very lives depend on it.



Teaching Challenges and Solution Strategies

By: Ellie Davis, Arzoo Malhotra and Marietta Gelfort

Through this post, we will share some of the challenges and solutions we have experienced while teaching. During the summer session we had a consistent group of students who received introductory knowledge of geography and open source mapping. However, this group of students changed due to lower participation rates and the older students entering more advanced classes. In response to this change and without the resources or time to repeat the summer classes, we reorganized the fall and spring sessions into a more modular design. Each class we teach is independent of the other classes, allowing for the constantly changing student attendance. Although a single class can build on knowledge from previous classes, the activities and discussions do not require those classes. Our class time also changed from the summer. We are teaching after school in an evening session. After many hours of learning, our students are tired of lectures and instead, we have found that physical activities receive a better response. Now, we form our classes around interactive activities that simulate the topic of the class. We also are bringing in speakers to help the students see the real world applications of the topics.

Due to these challenges, we learned that our teaching objectives had to be altered to create a more motivating and engaging learning environment. Most challenging in this regard was to let go of traditional teaching methods and strategies as well as to acknowledge time and space limitations. This experience has helped us create a more flexible and interactive classroom. The final chapter of our class will be to help the students interview one of the speakers that came to our class and produce a short presentation on that person’s career and how the student could achieve a similar career. We look forward to seeing the students’ presentations and their observations of the career options in geography.


Project Lilypad: Project Impact

By: Paige Cooper

What has been the impact of this project on you personally? On your academic experience? On the community you intend to serve?
The need for persistence has been a lesson from this project. When my original ideas for floating wetlands turned out to be more difficult to implement than anticipated, it has at times been hard not to become discouraged and a little disconnected. Often in a classroom setting problems are just a point of discussion and not an actual plan of action.
Working on casework for public health classes has sometimes made the reality of community projects seem more solution-orientated or data-driven. As I have learned from this experience, that is not always the case. Projects that may seem perfect from the start might have more complex processes. While the frustration may seem bad, I think there’s still a lot of benefit jumping through hoops and trying to make a positive change.
Moving forward with my project and other future endeavors, I want to have a mindset of iterative change. If the first attempts don’t work out, it’s okay to revise the plan and press on.

What is keeping you in this program?
I like how the work on Kingman Island is part of bigger movement for its community. Despite the fact that there’s a lot of city politics that continue to overlook the area, and a little uncertainty about the future of the neighborhood as the stadium re-development continues, I view the revitalization of Kingman Island as a project that provides both environmental and social benefits. Restoring the Island not only provides a direct benefit the to river and land, but also provides a public space for everyone to enjoy. Even though previous city plans to restore the island have fallen through, there’s a lot of hope and potential for the park.



How is this going to impact your future?
Being a part of this project has encouraged me to be a more active citizen in DC. I have had a limited understanding of DC, despite having attended school in the middle of the city for the past four years. As I make the transition out of GW and into the working world, I would like to take more ownership of the DC community that has become my home. As a resident, I feel like I have partial responsibility for the social and environmental disparities within DC. My project isn’t just helping a distant community; it’s helping my future neighbors.

Describe one moment that was particularly meaningful to you.
One moment that was meaningful to me was listening to a resident of the area nearby Kingman Island describe how the park was a special place for her. While I was waiting in line, I overheard this woman next to me speaking about a park that she loved to visit next to a giant parking lot. The hint of a “giant parking lot” tipped me off that she was talking about Kingman Island, so I joined in on her conversation.

From our conversation, I learned that she was a resident of the area and we were able to speak about her experiences as a resident of the area. She was very energetic and enthusiastic. Even though she recognized that the neighborhood had challenges and that the recent stadium development was a strain on the community, she had a lot of optimism for the area. She called Kingman Island “a bright spot”. Being able to have a candid conversation with a resident about the Island helped to me to better visualize the long-term potential for what this project could mean. As an outsider to the area, I will likely only see a small part of the project. To members of the community, such as this woman who visits the park often, changes to her community good or bad have an effect on her everyday life. I hope that Kingman Island can continue to provide a “bright spot” to members in the community.


GIS for Youth Empowerment: Project Impact

By: Ellie Davis

What has been the impact of this project on you personally? On your academic experience? On the community you intend to serve? 

GIS For Youth Empowerment has rejuvenated my passion for geography education. It has helped me decide on a career path and highlighted the importance of geography in the school system. The community has benefited from the scholars learning about both assets and issues and learning how to be change makers and advocates in their community.

What is keeping you in this program?

I think it is vitally important for our scholars to learn about different geographical concepts and be able to connect those concepts to their own lives. Watching them think deeply and grow academically keeps me teaching.

How is this going to impact your future?

This experience has solidified my resolve to receive a PhD in Geography and be able to use this experience to help other communities.

Describe one moment that was particularly meaningful to you.

There is a student in our class that was very quiet and was nervous about speaking up in front of her peers. During one class, she whispered a very insightful idea about the topic and we got her to share it with the class. Since then, she has become a leader and articulate participant in the class.

Perry School Peace Garden: Project Impact

By: Max Grossman

What has been the impact of this project on you personally? On your academic experience? On the community you intend to serve?
With its rain barrel, educational activities, gardening, and cooking demonstrations, my project is inherently multifaceted. This has made a personal impact on me as it has taught me the power of building partnerships when I – neither a master rain barrel installer or gardener – need help achieving project goals. Working with the GW’s Engineers Without Borders chapter and DC Greens has made much of the program areas that I lack experience with possible, and grown the community which the project serves.
The project has also had an academic impact. It has removed the abstraction from the research-based justifications I originally made when justifying the project. Through the project activities, I was able to see the impact it makes myself, rather than just put my faith in published papers. This sort experiential learning is very powerful.
Through the environmental lessons, the Perry School students have been introduced to plants, places, and ideas new to them. For example, it fascinated students that the same sweet potatoes grown on farms surrounding DC are also grown in Taiwan. They have also had the chance to experience the K Street Farm – an open green space they look forward to going back to in the spring.
What is keeping you in this program?
Over the past two years, I’ve come to know and care about many of the children in this program. In that time, it has become increasing evident that gardening and being outside is something they truly enjoy. This program makes our student’s outside time possible, and because of this I seek to continue implementing a meaningful service project.
How is this going to impact your future?
As my first real interaction with community and educational gardening, working on the eco-equity challenge has made it clear that I will seek out similar opportunities in the future.
Describe one moment that was particularly meaningful to you.
In the fall, partner DC Greens gave our students a tour of their K Street Farm. This day was particularly meaningful to me as it generated the sense of discovery I’d hoped would come from the project. Kids struggled trying to say the word cistern, learned the important relationship between bugs and crops, and marveled at the taste of real honey. Capturing these sorts of moments is part of what makes service projects special and I hope to help our students discover more in the future.

Project Lilypad: A Portrait of Kingman Island

By: Paige Cooper
To an outsider Kingman Island may not seem so impressive. Benning Road Bridge and the metro overpass cross over the Island and river perpendicularly. Driving across the road on one side of the Island, it would be easy to miss. There are chain-link fences, dirt, gravel and a view of the Langston Golf Course’s flat grass turf, which easily turns to sludge in the rain. If you travel beyond all this development, the park has scenic views of the river.

When I first visited the Island over a year ago in the summer, my white sneakers sank into the grass and became covered in mud in the golf course’s driving range. My dependence on GPS had led me astray and into the muddy golf course. The real entrance to the park is hidden away within a massive parking lot. As a non-native DC resident, I had a hard time imagining that many people in my own Georgetown and Foggy Bottom bubble had visited the park tucked along the river.
The park is located alongside historically overlooked communities in the DC-area within Wards 6 & 7. Previous plans to restore the Island have fallen short to city budget cuts. Moreover, the Park will be impacted by proposed redevelopment of the RFK Stadium site. Every new construction has potential risks to the habitat of the River and Island.

Despite all of the political conflict and commotion that has surrounded the Island, the park is a special refuge. While there have been many struggles to protect the land and water in the past, this struggle is validated by how much potential the Island has as a restored habitat. Already the island has benefited the DC community by hosting the Blue Grass Festival every year and by providing one of the few escapes from city noise. What makes this park special is not just what it has already provided or the challenges it has had to persevere, but its potential for growth. If given the funds and means to thrive, Kingman Island would offer the whole DC community a prime space for breathing room, beauty and nature.


GIS for Youth Empowerment

By: Arzoo Malhotra

Over the past decade, there have been several articles about the geographic illiteracy of American students and adults. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2014, 73% of eighth-graders tested below proficient in geography. With the increased reliance on Google Maps and digital navigation technology, combined with the reduced allocation of funding and resources to geographic education in the public school system, students just aren’t cultivating spatial thinking.

While many assume the scope of geography is limited to identifying cities and political boundaries on a map, the reality could not be further from this. Analyzing phenomena through space allows individuals to make connections that otherwise might be overlooked; connections like the one made between Climate Change and the Arab Spring. Geographic analysis helped academics to realize that climate change related food price spikes led to the economic instability that primed the Arab World for the game-changing protests that rocked the world in 2011. In our rapidly globalizing world, our students are becoming less able to include spatial considerations in the way they tackle global problems.

Our program, GIS for Youth Empowerment, seeks to engage students with local, regional, and global geographies to understand how key phenomena occur in real space. Particularly, our interest is to include mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) in the curriculum to help students cultivate highly demanded skills in the global market. GIS technologies allow individuals to create, manage, analyze and present spatial data, in order to extract as much valuable information about the phenomena as possible. It is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States, and by equipping our students with this technology we hope to give them the tools to succeed in the job market in the decades to come.

Our curriculum seeks to employ teaching strategies forgone by conventional classroom structures. With the increased emphasis in public schools on teaching methods designed to train students to succeed on standardized tests, more creative and physically involved teaching strategies are often overlooked in favor of more orthodox ones. We found that our students are excited to learn through unstructured exploration and imaginative activities, which we are trying to include in our curriculum. The students were keen to work with Legos, maps, paint, and other mediums to help them learn about the physical world through more tactile activities. We hope to introduce the students to concepts like climate change, gentrification, food security, environmental degradation, global cultures and many others through the use of novel and innovative new approaches to geographic education.

Playing “Geography Simon Says”


Eat Your Veggies!

By: Kristen Pinto

Want to know the secret to getting kids to eat their vegetables? Cheese. Today, I told the kids at the Little Friends for Peace (LFFP) Youth Development program at the Perry School Community Center that we would be making chips. Instead of artificial-orange-dusted cheddar chips, we made parmesan-sprinkled kale chips. And they were a success!

Thanks to the Public Service Grant Commission, I have had the opportunity to lead weekly cooking and nutrition lessons at the LFFP youth program. Every Tuesday, we cook a healthy dish and talk about an issue related to the food system and/or food culture.  For example, when we talked about where our food comes from in the world, we made a salad full of ingredients that originated elsewhere. Each kid was given a mason jar, which they shook like crazy, to make salad dressing. It was entertaining to see their noses scrunch up when they caught a whiff of the balsamic vinegar in it.

The PSGC grant has helped introduce the kids to new foods and cultures. From millet to feta to kiwi, we have tried a variety of interesting flavors! So far, we have also talked about dishes from Chile, France, and India.

With help from the PSGC, I have been able to integrate physical health into Little Friends for Peace’s social-emotional health program. After becoming certified by The Cookbook Project as a Food Literacy Educator, I worked with Little Friends for Peace to bring a fun nutrition curriculum to a community with which they serve. A goal of the program is to foster a holistic sense of wellness and practice teamwork by enabling the kids to work in small groups to prepare a healthy snack or meal. We seek to encourage the kids to try healthier options and adopt them into their diet. Expanding diet diversity and sparking an interest in the food system at a young age, we hope this program will ignite a curiosity for cooking and eating healthfully.

Each week I learn a bit more about what they like to eat. Over the past few months, cucumbers, coconut, and cheese have brought much excitement to the kitchen. I look forward to the next four months. We have the history of chocolate, gardening, a community meal, and more food cultures in our future!

For more information about The Cookbook Project: www.thecookbookproject.org

For more information about Little Friends for Peace: www.lffp.org


Financial Literacy for ALL!

By: Alice Murray

One of the best things about being at a higher education institution is the opportunity to turn your crazy ideas into reality. When I saw a group of middle school girls get onto the metro together one day, I was reminded of the World Bank’s Girl Effect – focusing on 12 year old girls to tackle issues surrounding poverty. How could this mentality be used domestically? How could I play a part in empowering girls at this crucial age to take ownership of their future and create a healthy and stable life for themselves and their families?

While it may not seem like the obvious answer, I landed on jewelry making. A skill that I have and am willing to share, beading offers entrepreneurial opportunities in a fun and creative format. The Public Service Grant Commission funded my project to bring basic financial literacy lessons to a group of girls at Washington Global Public Charter School through BEAD: Beading for Entrepreneurial Advancement and Development.

Every Thursday afternoon my girl gang meets to hear about a successful female entrepreneur, have discussions about profit, pricing strategy, and budgeting, and make some wearable art. At the end of the 10-week program we’ll be taking a field trip together to Eastern Market so sell the fruits of our labor and experience business in action.

It’s a small dent in a large issue. Financial literacy rates are lower in areas with lower median incomes, for minority populations, and among women and girls (see Social Security Administration Data here). Additionally, only 4% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are female (catalyst.org) and empowering girls in business continues to be important to major women’s rights activists like Melinda Gates.

Thanks to the Public Service Grant Commission I can try my hand at research-based interventions that face these intersectional issues head on. We are in the third week of our curriculum with a group of nine 6th and 7th grade girls. It will be exciting to evaluate this program at the end of the semester.

To get more news about BEAD follow Washington Global Public Charter School on social media here:



…and look out for future announcements about our Eastern Market sale date!

Learning from Experience: Why Green Spaces Matter

By: Max Grossman

I remember when I wrote the Perry Peace Garden Project proposal I used two studies to argue the project’s importance. One claimed green space positively affects child development and the other proposed green spaces in poorer urban areas are few.

This argument seems logical enough, but after some reflection, it also appears somewhat hollow.
What does it mean to positively affect child development and why do kids need access to places that do it?’

A month into the program, during which time LFFP’s students have spent ample time in LFFP’s peace garden and afternoons at DC Green’s K Street Farm, I think I’ve nailed down three concrete examples to back my case.

I claim no degree in Child Psychology, however below are the three reasons gardens are constructive:

Gardens allow students to discover:

Discover what you might ask? Worms, how bees make honey, why a fruit is a fruit, how a rain barrel works, what a praying mantis eats, where toothpaste’s mint flavor comes from… the list could go on. What is unique about these questions is that students got to interact with answers. They felt a praying mantis, peered into the rain barrel, and tasted honey. Certainly interfacing with these what they are studying makes kids want to continue asking questions.
Gardens provide students space:

Schools, and LFFP’s youth development program for that matter, are congested environments. Filled with kids, teachers, faculty, their winding hallways and windowless classrooms are overly clutter. Gardens do not face this issue. In this sense, kids can learn in their own space at their own pace. Those that want to explore every plant can, and those that would rather work with only one can too. Peers do not interfere with each others’ experience. Additionally, to kids, gardens are BIG. Add large plants and walkways and programs seem less like activities and more like adventures.

Gardens bring students joy.

I say with confidence that LFFP’s students are happy outside. Some kids hum, others zone in on their digging, most kids laugh and play. In any case, this joy is key for cooperation, inclusion, and dare I say peace!

At any rate, these first few weeks have brought meaning to the proposal I made months ago. With more afternoon garden adventures, and the upcoming rain barrel installation, my list of three will certainly grow.