BHEC Member Spotlight: Yarrow Linden
AmeriCorps VISTA member Yarrow Linden joined the Behavioral Health Equity Corp (formerly Community Opioid Response Program) or BHEC in March of 2020. As her service comes to a close this month (March 2021), she was kind enough to answer some questions about herself and the work she's done as part of the program.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in boulder and went to high school here. I got my Bachelor of Science in Public Health at the University of Washington. After I graduated, I came back to boulder and joined Peace Corps and was working in Tanzania. I was evacuated when COVID-19 hit and came back to Boulder suddenly. I wanted to work in public health, saw the AmeriCorps opening and thought wow this is kind of perfect.
My interest in public health started in high school. My dad is an environmental engineer and does a lot of water quality research. I got to work in his lab a bit and got to go on some of his trips, such as Peru and Rwanda where they were implementing projects. I liked the crossover of environmental health and engineering.
How did you get into volunteering?
I wanted hands on experience doing global health work. Always something I wanted to do. Specifically, to get that hands-on experience. I was a little torn about whether I wanted to do the domestic health or the more global health. Peace Corps was an easy way to get my toes into the global health side. I also wanted to learn new languages, and I got to learn some Swahili. The AmeriCorps position is an opportunity through this role to learn more about substance use and health domestically.
What do you most enjoy in your free time?
I Like to go hiking. Love being back in Colorado this year and getting to explore new places. In high school I stayed in the Boulder area, whereas this year I have gotten to go on a few backpacking trips and see places a bit further away from Boulder. My current longest backpacking trip is 7 days. I love traveling as well but not during COVID.
What advice would you give people considering going into service?
Be open to learning new things and saying yes to any project that gets thrown your way. I’ve learned a lot of things I didn’t necessarily expect to learn from little projects.
What were those little things you learned?
Facilitation skills, researching skills, grant-writing, qualitative data coding and scoring, and more.
If you could visit one place, anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Berlin, Germany (to live, have already visited)
Patagonia, Argentina (to visit, have never been) – specifically for the hiking/backpacking!
Favorite place you have been?
Peru because it is really diverse, I got to go into the mountains, the capitol Lima, and the Amazon. Beautiful landscape, environment, and culture.
What is one item you cannot live without?
My water bottle.
My kindle. Currently reading two books “The Deep” by Rivers Solomon, and “Atomic Habits” by James Clear
What is your favorite hobby?
I really like to run. I am running a half marathon this weekend (Editor’s Note: Yarrow successfully completed the half marathon!).
I also love to read. I always do a reading goal for the year. I like to read a little bit of everything, like to swap between non-fiction and fiction. I have a book club with some friends from Peace Corps.
Tell us about your host site. How do you, as a BHEC member, fit into their vision of supporting communities?
My host site is Boulder County Public Health (BCPH). It is the local health department for the county. We are in the community substance use prevention program within the community health department.
I work under a community health program specialist and we have about 5 people on our team working on different programs. My supervisor is a facilitator of the Healthy Futures Coalition. We are youth substance abuse prevention focused.
Most of my work is working with this coalition which has a wide range of participants including individuals from the school district, law enforcement, local youth focused organizations and more, and community members both youth and adults.
It fits into BHEC as it is supporting community-driven work through the coalition and focusing on youth-substance prevention.
What attracted you most to work with BHEC?
After having to leave Peace Corps early, I wanted to continue my service. I was looking at AmeriCorps positions and saw the BHEC position was focused on public health. I was excited to see a position in boulder where I grew up. I am getting to see a whole new side of the community and working with partners I did not even know were here.
Please highlight a specific project you are currently working on or completed.
Currently working on a big, shared data project that has been in the works for a long time. We are trying to see the collective impact of the coalition through data from individual organizations. Partners have collected data from their participants through surveys, so we asked them to add a few specific questions, or we helped them start a survey. When we aggregate all the data to see how all our projects work together, we can see the collective impact.
What impact do you feel these projects/programs will have on the community?
From this data we will see what we are doing well and what needs to be changed and get a better feel for the climate around youth substance use and then being able to drive the coalition forward.
Tell us about the support you receive from your host site.
My host site has been incredible. They have treated me like I am one of them, one of the team. They have really welcomed me into the position. I have a ton of support from our department and department manager with weekly meetings and check-ins whenever I need it.
What did you hope to gain from service at this host site?
I wanted to learn more professional soft skills that will be useful in public health work. Such as facilitating and being able to collaborate effectively on larger projects with others in the field. I’ve also been able to see what it is like to work in a health department as it is something that I am interested in doing in my career. I am making great connections.
What is the most rewarding aspect/proudest accomplishment of your work/position?
In the fall of 2020, when the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data came out, I worked a ton with that. Our epidemiology team was busy at the time with COVID so I put together presentations about the data and got to present to a ton of partners of BCPH. I was proud of myself that I was able to tackle the data by myself and be able to present it to community members and local organizations. Because of how many presentations I did, I got to see how much better I got at it over time.