My name is Melea Banaszak and I attended PLEN’s Health Policy seminar on October 8-10th. Before I tell you about my experience, I'll share a bit about myself. I am a senior at Augustana College studying Public Health, Psychology, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I’m most proud of my work with sexual assault prevention education and informing the campus community on all of the resources at their disposal. I’m best known for my passion for human rights campaigns, more specifically reproductive rights as well as sexual education. My next step upon graduation is finding a job that can fulfill my need to change the world, little by little, person by person. This is exactly why I wanted to attend the PLEN Health Policy seminar. I felt like it would be a perfect first step into the world of reproductive health, with many connections that could be made.
To help me make the seminar more affordable, I received the CareerLife Directions Scholarship, and met with Shelby Olson to prepare my Linkedin account and go over more professional skills. She was super helpful and supportive of all of the students that went to the seminar from Augustana College. While at the seminar, I got to learn a lot of new useful skills, such as how to network, and how to enter the workforce as a person with a background in public health. I really enjoyed Ally Perleoni’s workshop, and would recommend her to anyone that needs to hone their skills in networking. One of the other blocks that I really enjoyed was the breakout session on global health. I really connected with Kiki Kalkstein, who is the Director of Advocacy and Engagement on the Global Health Council while she was speaking, as she came up through reproductive health work, which is something that I would love to do post graduation. I was able to speak to her one on one after the breakout session and now have a meeting with her this week to discuss more about what I can do to enter the health workforce.
I also absolutely loved being able to be in the heart of where all health policy decisions are made. I felt so at home in the lively street, and I loved trying all of the delicious restaurants around the hotel. D.C. is such a walkable city, so it made it easy and cheap for my friends and I to explore new areas! Being able to travel to D.C. as a broke-ish college student was such an incredible opportunity, especially as I am looking to move out of Illinois after I graduate, and still don’t know just where I am going to end up. I can’t wait to take the concrete skills and knowledge that I learned at the seminar and apply them in my job post graduation, and I am so grateful that I was able to have this experience that is just a stepping stone in the long professional career path ahead, thanks to Shelby Olson and CareerLife Directions.
Melea Banaszak is a current Senior at Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois. Melea attended the Fall 2022 Health Policy Seminar, and received the CareerLife Directions, LLC Scholarship.