Teen with orange hair with other students and teacher in background

Turning Passion into Career: A Health Educator’s Story

By Breannah Goodman, MPH

When I was in fifth grade, I brought the American Girl book, “The Care & Keeping of YOU” (Millennials and Gen Z if you know, you know) to school. I wanted other girls in my class to have access to the health and puberty information the book provided and remember giving mini lessons at lunch and recess, using the book as my curriculum. My parents were less than enthused that their daughter brought a book with bodily diagrams to school and was actively showing said diagrams to a class full of 10-year-olds. I needed to share this information with my friends I couldn’t be the only one who understood puberty. 

During my eighth-grade farewell ceremony, the health teacher who taught me throughout the entirety of middle school, awarded me — outstanding student award. The award was for being the most interested and engaged student in her class out of the eighth-grade cohort. I never understood at the time why the other kids weren’t as interested as me; health class was one of my favorite classes, but at the time I couldn’t tell you why.  

When I was in high school, I took my required health course at a community college. I took it there not only for the dual high school/college credit, but to take a deeper dive into health information. Somehow, it took until my junior year of college to discover that my career passion lies in Health and Wellness Education joining a Peer Education Program on a whim through my university’s health center led me to this discovery. When I signed up for it, I thought the program would just help me with public speaking and build my resume. Little did I know how much of an impact this program would have on the rest of my life; hindsight truly is 20/20.  

The third week of October is dedicated to National Health Education Week, with the dates for 2023 being October 16th through 20th. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate it than to talk about the health education programming offered here at Jewish Community Services!  

I have the privilege of being a Health and Wellness Educator at JCS through our Prevention and Wellness Department. My team, comprised of other Health and Wellness Educators, and I focus on providing live and on-demand programming for emotional and behavioral well-being. With curriculums for preschool, all the way through adult audiences and every age group in between we want to provide meaningful educational lessons and conversations. Our goal is to ensure these individuals have the tools and coping mechanisms to manage their emotions and stressors in practical and healthy manners.  

We have a wide array of live programming that allows groups of individuals to interact directly with our Health and Wellness Educators. Our programs cover a plethora of different topics that can impact an individual’s mental, physical, and emotional wellness. A few of the different topics we cover through our programming include Mindfulness and Resiliency, Substance Use, Self-Empowerment, Interpersonal Relationships, Social Media Usage and Safety, and Diversity. This list can go on further, and we can tailor topics to fit the needs of the group we interact with. Our in-person program is lively and interactive to get audiences fully engaged with the content.  

In addition to our live programming, we also offer Wellness My Way, which is on demand and self-directed, which transforms our live lessons and programs into an interactive and accessible online platform. Wellness My Way is designed so that it can be added to other programs or utilized separately. It keeps minds engaged by giving off the feeling of a choose-your-own-adventure game, and using resources including videos, pop-ups, and animations regardless of a health educator present or not. Wellness My Way can be used to introduce groups to the different topics and lessons the Prevention and Wellness Department offers, or to continue the conversation past the live programming. To learn more and see our catalog of programs, visit jcsbalt.org/prevention.

For me, this work is invigorating; I get to talk about subjects I’m passionate about and learn more about the topics we cover. I get to interact with individuals with different backgrounds and world views. This work not only allows me to share my expertise with the community but allows me to continue to learn and grow. It’s an honor to be able to step into the community, engage in conversations and see it strengthen through it. This work has helped me grow into the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities being a Health and Wellness Educator has afforded me experienced and will continue to do so, throughout my career. 

I think back to what my supervisor in the Peer Education program in college told me. Regarding my first day as a peer educator, she said, “You don’t know now how much this program is going to change your life.” I thought at the time she was exaggerating but her prediction was correct; it led to me getting my master’s degree in public health, and many health education internships. Most importantly, it led to finding my dream position as a Health and Wellness Educator at JCS though I like to think that fateful day in fifth grade with the American Girl book led me here, too.  

Happy National Health Education Week! Reflect on all the health and wellness programming you’ve had throughout your life. Maybe you won’t have as passionate of a story about it as I do, or maybe you do, but I’m sure it has made an impact on your well-being.  

Breannah Goodman Breannah Goodman, MPH, is a Health and Wellness Educator at Jewish Community Services. 

Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence.  To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or 410-466-9200. 

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