Jordyn Seri ’18 introduces local middle schoolers to public health education

Student seeks to do her part by educating high schoolers about public health

jordyn seri

Jordyn Seri ’18 found an unexpected way to combine public health and community service.

The psychology and health: science, society and policy (HSSP) double-major organized an entire networking event and public health documentary screening at Waltham’s McDevitt Middle School on March 29 in an effort to enrich local youth.

The documentary, “Bending the Arc,” chronicles the rise of Partners in Health, a Boston-based nonprofit that works to bring quality healthcare to poverty-stricken parts of the world.

Following the screening, middle school and high school students connected with hiring managers from local nonprofits at a career fair to learn about summer internship opportunities in Waltham at places such as Boston Children’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club, and Africano. HSSP undergraduates also shared their experiences with public health research and service opportunities.

“I looked at census data in Waltham and found that the public health industry was one of the top three industries hiring Waltham residents, but couldn’t find much local public health education,” said Seri. “I figured that this was a gap I could help bridge. Public health plays a role in everyone’s life. Maybe it’s not something you’ll necessarily go into as a career, but it’s important to understand.”

Seri, who plans to pursue public health in graduate school, never thought she’d be able to take her case to middle school students.

She originally wanted to screen “Bending the Arc” on campus, but, at the encouragement of community service director Lucas Malo, she applied for a fellowship that allowed her to take her project to the next level.

Seri subsequently applied for and won the Rich/Collins Community Leadership and Impact Fellowship, which awards students up to $5,000 to execute a service project in partnership with the Waltham community. Recent alumni Mariah Rich Collins ’09 and James Collins ’10 launched the fellowship this year.

As part of the fellowship, Seri teamed up with Brandeis alumna Kaytie Dowcett ’99, MPP’15, the director of Waltham Partnership for Youth, a nonprofit that works to improve outcomes for local students.

With Dowcett’s help, plus additional assistance from HSSP professor Sarah Curi, Seri connected with other nonprofits, teachers, researchers and public health professionals to turn her vision into reality.

“Jordyn has been amazing,” said Dowcett. “She’s one of the top students I’ve worked with, getting out in the community and making herself and the issues she cares about known. Brandeis is involved in supporting the local community in so many ways. Jordyn is another reminder of that.”

Seri credits her upbringing for making the pursuit of social justice a meaningful endeavor. That said, it didn’t take long for her to feel right at home at Brandeis.

“I’ve always been passionate about helping others,” Seri said. “I was raised in a Jewish family and my parents put an emphasis on tikkun olam — in Hebrew that means 'repair the world.' When I got to Brandeis and I discovered HSSP, I realized that there was a way to do tikkun olam through public health.”

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