Department of Allied Health Sciences Students Travel to Tyrrell County for Service-Learning Trip

Students with the Division of Physical Therapy traveled to Columbia, North Carolina, for a spring break service-learning trip.

Department of Allied Health Sciences Students Travel to Tyrrell County for Service-Learning Trip click to enlarge Home health visit with Meredith Smythe, Caroline Cleveland, Kristin Wright (Physical Therapy)
Department of Allied Health Sciences Students Travel to Tyrrell County for Service-Learning Trip click to enlarge ABC yoga at elementary school with Caroline Cleveland (Physical Therapy)

As snow flurries melted into the Scuppernong River bordering Columbia, North Carolina, 23 UNC-Chapel Hill students and four faculty members were in route from Chapel Hill on the morning of March 12.

UNC-CH’s relationship with Columbia began in 2009, when teams of students assisted locals with community development as a venue through which to examine the social determinants of health. As one of the most underserved counties in NC, Tyrrell County has continued to be the destination of many students on UNC-CH’s spring break service-learning trip. Although the trip is hosted by the UNC School of Nursing, this year's participants included students from the Department of Allied Health Sciences’ Division of Physical Therapy, the UNC School of Social, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and undergraduate students.

This year, interdisciplinary teams provided home health assessments and home safety modifications for 10 older adults in the community, as well as conducted fall prevention screenings and interventions for 11 members of a local senior center. The senior center was also the site of the group’s interactive nutrition class, in which members sampled and compared tradition soul food with healthier versions, afterward discussing strategies for practical healthy eating techniques.

The group addressed another aspect of nutrition, combatting food scarcity by coordinating the installation of two 10-square-foot community gardens in local neighborhoods. Student planted seedlings in the high school greenhouse, empowering students with the project’s sustainment. Other school programs included health activities for more than 300 high school, middle school, and elementary school students, covering fundamental aspects of nutrition, exercise, and healthy relationships.

As ecotourism remains a critical component of Tyrrell County’s prosperity, UNC-CH students assisted the town manager with riverfront cleanup. Many students also journeyed to the neighboring county to assist rangers with cutting fire lines for an upcoming burn at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The trip culminated with an excursion to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, again emphasizing the impacts of ecotourism on rural communities. 

The trip facilitated a unique extracurricular exchange of perspectives and kindling of friendships among students of varying disciplines. Likewise, as we bonded with one another, we also bonded with the members of the community with whom we worked. Although the course objectives were to assist the residents of Tyrrell County in improving their community, it was they who improved our educational experience through their kindness and candid glimpse into their lives. For this we are truly grateful to the leaders and residents of Tyrrell County, and we look forward to returning for many years to come. 

-Story submitted by Caroline Cleveland, DPT 2018

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