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Busy summer spent working on her PROMISE

CPHHS student participates in hands-on internship program

Cheyla Moranchel

David and Cheyla in front of her poster at the program finale

Cheyla Moranchel’s summer was full of PROMISE. The CPHHS Public Health and Human Development and Family Sciences junior participated in the 10-week paid internship program and gained valuable experience and knowledge about child poverty in Oregon.

Oregon State University’s PROMISE program was founded in 1992 and strives to provide pathways to careers for historically underrepresented student groups. Students are expected to work 40 hours a week and present their work at a reception at the end of the summer.

Cheyla’s internship was in the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, looking at child poverty patterns in Oregon with her mentor, CPHHS Assistant Professor David Rothwell. The university-community partnership included Children First Oregon and the Oregon Department of Human Services. Cheyla worked with David to enter and organize secondary data, conduct literature searches, analyze survey data, write a report and create a research poster for the program’s finale event.

At the end of her research, Cheyla concluded that Oregon’s child poverty levels mostly followed those of the United States as a whole – and surpassed them in certain years. She found that rates of child poverty are higher in rural Oregon compared to urban, and the disparities are growing over time. She also explored inequalities across family structure, finding that married households have less poverty risk than non-married families.

“By analyzing child poverty the way I did, we now have a greater understanding of which children are at greater risk and how those risks have changed over time,” Cheyla wrote on her research poster.

Cheyla says that going through the program allowed her to develop professional skills, including networking, using LinkedIn and creating a Weebly account. It helped her explore a possible research career or graduate school. It also provided her knowledge that is important in policy making and program evaluation, which can be used to determined the effectiveness of a program.

New beginnings

Both David and Cheyla were new to the PROMISE program experience this year.

“I choose to be a mentor because I believe in the PROMISE mission and strong emphasis on social justice,” David says. “I believe in promoting student success in our college, and this internship offered an opportunity to provide leadership opportunities to students who are traditionally underrepresented.”

David says that Cheyla did a great job over the summer. “Seeing her potential, I structured the internship in a way to introduce and mentor Cheyla in research in hopes of attracting her to research and potentially graduate school,” he says.

He added that Cheyla was able to overcome some hesitations about data analysis and develop competency in analyzing complex data, networking and connecting how research informs policy. “I believe she has a bright future and a sincere commitment to continue studying child poverty and public health.”

“David provided the space for me to self-learn while delegating tasks with mentorship,” Cheyla says. “Before taking this position, I was skeptical of being able to complete this project because I had never worked with data or statistical programs like Stata. He made feel reassured that he would mentor me through the experience, provided I was motivated by the project’s mission.”

In addition to working at her internship and creating her final presentation, Cheyla attended the Oregon Foster Youth Connection (OFYC) conference in Salem. The statewide youth-led advocacy group works together to identify pressing issues within the foster care system, determine concrete solutions and advocate for change.

“Attending this conference gave me additional insight of the work I can do in public health,” Cheyla says. “The experience made me realize that the work I do could potentially contribute to policy making decisions. Statistics and analysis is a skill that can be used in numerous fields but is especially important in policy making.”

Up next for Cheyla is the American Association of Public Health conference in Denver on October 29–November 2. She’s attending the event through the competitive Gates Millennium Scholarship, which she was awarded in 2014.