Belmont University students are working with a local nonprofit organization to create a national template for communities to improve their residents’ body, heart, mind and spirit using free resources.
In early October, Adjunct Instructor Dane Anthony’s freshman seminar “The Art of Paying Attention” classes worked with Neighborhoods InspireHealth to interview senior citizens in the Sunnyside and 12South neighborhoods. Together the students and nonprofit conducted the first focus group to determine the biggest healthcare challenges facing seniors. The focus group launches a 12-month project within the neighborhoods where students will meet with residents from various demographics.
“Interviewing this community of people widened my eyes to who I was as a part of the world. It was helpful to be a part of this process because it made me realize my role in the community and how important it is to become involved. This process taught me to pay attention to myself, others and the community as a whole,” said Sophie Martin, a freshman studying exercise science, who added that she learned more in casual conversations with the seniors than while asking the assigned questions.
“The amount of rich knowledge and wisdom with which they spoke about their personal experiences was heartwarming. Just in one simple hour I felt I had gained more from a conversation with strangers than I had in a semester of school. They were full of advice on how to avoid certain health issues as we aged, hints on where to go in town, and simply to live life to its fullest,” Martin said. “I left that morning feeling as if I had learned how to appreciate life more than ever before. I am forever grateful to have been presented with this amazing opportunity for self-growth and to have met such exquisite individuals.”
Student worked in groups to weave through the narratives they captured and to look for solutions for overarching themes, such as lack of transportation, access to healthy food options and financial constraints on a fixed income.
“A number of the things that we do in the course are to identify things that contribute to your world view and things that you take for granted. This was a great exercise for them to realize the things that they may take for granted, such as healthcare, insurance, means of income, access to transportation,” Anthony said. “The students were excited that this is the initial project for something they hope will become a national model. We had an opportunity to participate on the ground floor.”
“Having worked on projects with Belmont in the past, the president of the Sunnyside Association first suggested working with the university, and then actually helped us out by setting up an introduction. We were very excited to work with Belmont because we knew how service oriented it is, and honestly we feel as if the University is simply an extension of the neighborhood so it seemed like a great match,” said Heather Dubuque, Neighborhoods InspireHealth’s vice president of marketing and communications. “One of our main goals is to bring all of the different parts of our community together, so bringing the students in to work with the seniors, growing families, teenagers, shut ins, artists is another step towards reaching that goal.”
Neighborhoods InspireHealth President Dana El Gammal said Belmont students’ participation in this initial focus group will drive the direction of the pilot program. The nonprofit launched its 7 Habits of Healthy Neighborhoods program in August with a plan to create a template that provides all of the tools necessary for others communities to execute it successfully. The pilot program will conclude next summer.
“We chose to launch the community initiative within the 12South/Sunnyside community not only because as an organization we are connected to it, but because of its diverse group of people, the active neighborhood associations, the compassionate business community that has been growing within it, and the resources we knew already existed,” Dubuque said. “The whole intent of the program is to learn, assess and create avenues that help the entire community reach their health goals and obtain the health tools necessary to becoming their healthiest self.”