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Summer Interns Learn the Importance of Government in Health & Wellness

“It has been an eye opener.”

These were the words that political science major Adjeilyne Akrong ’21 used to describe her experience in her summer internship with the Department of Health and Human Services in Jersey City. Akrong worked under the guidance of Linda Ivory-Green, director of the Division of Community Health and Wellness, which is dedicated to bringing awareness to the community about issues affecting the city such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, HIV/AIDS and more recently coronavirus, COVID-19, particularly in regards to awareness and access to vaccinations.

Adjeilyne Akrong ’21 (left) with her supervisor, Linda Ivory-Green (right), director of the Division of Community Health and Wellness.

“Helping with the COVID-19 vaccine unit and at a variety of events has taught me that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to learn and educate themselves, but they don’t have the resources,” explained Akrong. “The greatest part of working with the Division of Community Health and Wellness was that we were able to provide the necessary information to people so that they were educated and able to take care of themselves and others.”

Akrong was one of two students selected for the Fox Scholars Internship Program at Saint Peter’s. Through the generosity of The James P. Fox Memorial Fund, the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership was able to provide stipends for Akrong and her fellow classmate Jamie Suarez ’23 to spend the summer interning with the Jersey City Department of Health. Both students had the firsthand opportunity to learn about the importance of local government in health and wellness.

Suarez, who is double majoring in political science and communication, worked with the Partnership for a Healthier Jersey City.

“This internship exposed to me the many ways the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services fulfill its duties towards its residents,” Suarez explained. “From dealing with food and nutrition, immigrant, senior and veteran affairs, to disease and injury prevention — it has been very fascinating to watch how city government can be of service to their community’s health and wellness.”

Suarez worked under the guidance of the director of the Partnership for a Healthier Jersey City, Maryanne Kelleher ’94, a fellow Saint Peter’s alumna. Kelleher was grateful to have Suarez as well as the 14 other Saint Peter’s students who interned with her office during the pandemic.

Jamie Suarez ’23 (left) with her supervisor, Maryanne Kelleher ’94, director of the Partnership for a Healthier Jersey City.

“So far, the Peacocks are coming through! As an alumna, I am very happy to benefit from the work of Saint Peter’s students and offer them a place to gain experience,” Kelleher shared.

The relationship between The James P. Fox Memorial Fund and Saint Peter’s was cultivated by the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership. The Guarini Institute was established in 1994 by Congressman Frank Guarini H ’94 and aims to provide a non-partisan forum for discussion of key public policy issues. The Institute sponsors lectures and programs to promote critical thinking, debate and careers in public service.

According to The James P. Fox Memorial Fund, “Internships are considered crucial for career building, but because many of these critical opportunities are unpaid, a large portion of interested students simply cannot afford to take one on.”

The Fox Scholars Internship Program provides opportunities for students to develop relationships with public sector leaders, advocacy organizations and community partners through paid summer internships.

“I am so proud of these students and all they accomplished this summer,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, executive director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership. “The Jersey City Department of Health is an amazing organization, not only because of the great work they do for our community, but because talented staff members such as Maryanne and Linda take the time to coach and inspire future leaders like Jamie and Adjeilyne. None of this, however, would be possible without our sponsor, The James P. Fox Memorial Fund, which provided the stipends that made it possible for our students to forgo other summer jobs in order to further their professional interests.”