Community-Academic Scholar: Kaiya Bernard (she/her)
Project: Kaiya worked with Prof. Warren Lavey and Champaign Park District (CPD) staff to develop and conduct a survey for effective community outreach to obtain guidance for CPD’s facilities and programs and improve the experiences of underserved groups. Learn more about the project.
Mentor reflection: Prof. Lavey found Kaiya delightful, thoughtful, caring, and hard-working in the program this summer and she wanted to succeed in the project. "Kaiya worked well with diverse people in the Champaign Park District, Champaign Neighborhood Ambassadors Program, and communities. She waited a week for people to reply to her scheduling requests, then sent reminder messages and arranged about five meetings," said Lavey. "Kaiya was excited and sent me a message on a Friday afternoon about her upcoming meetings; she knew that by sharing her good news with me she would brighten my weekend."
Do you have a personal story or path that led to your interest in this research project?
I grew up in a low income neighborhood as a child and it really impacted my outlook growing up. I thought that kids and families who looked like me didn't deserve to have parks, playgrounds, pools, and many other resources that others had because of the neighborhood we lived in. It wasn't until I got older when I realized that there are just so many communities across the U.S who are underserved and underrepresented in different community spaces and there needs to be a much larger emphasis than there is.
How has participating in this program helped you toward your goals?
I have been wanting to get a Master's in Public Health to become a more well-rounded doctor in the future. I believe that health is multifaceted, and it has a lot to do with your environment and how you live along with medicine and care. I wanted to be able to understand a little more about how someone's environment can contribute to a lower quality of life and different ways to combat those disparities. I think that this project has brought me a lot of clarity and knowledge before I indulge into the Master's in Public Health and I am so excited about how I can relate this project to my future studies.
What was the most meaningful part of this experience?
The most meaningful part of this experience has been the ability to interact with the community members. I always say the University can feel like a bubble and you miss out on so many connections with such a lively and culture rich community just five minutes away. It makes it even more important to me because these communities are underrepresented just like I was growing up and I was able to make so many questions with people who looked like me and had the same stories as me growing up.
What advice do you have for future scholars or to those who are interested in applying for the program?
I would honestly say you don't have to choose a program that is related to your major or your studies because you can learn so many valuable things by going out of your comfort zone. I feel like the program gives you so much room to explore with a wide range of topics and I think it is really a time for you to dive deep into your passions and pick the projects that speak to you. This project spoke to me in many ways, and I would not have wanted a different project!