As an ISP Scholar, Monserrat Carrillo-Rodriguez is appointed with the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus/Latino Caucus Foundation. Her work is significant in targeting food security through access to healthy cultural fruits and vegetables for community wellness through workshops and urban farming and greenhouses in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Monserrat shared some thoughts with me about the ISP program, and her work so far.
Why did you apply for the Illini Science Policy Program?
I thought it would be a great opportunity to apply my public health background to policy. In the future, I want to design and implement health programs that reach underserved communities, so I believed that being a scholar would help me gain skills and knowledge to do so.
Tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish as a result of being a 2022 Scholar.
I hope to gain knowledge on how policy affects public health. Specifically, the steps it takes to get funding and support for public health related programs to communities.
Tell us a bit about the project you are working on for your host agency.
My project is to move forward an urban farming initiative that will bring rooftop greenhouses to the Humboldt Park neighborhood. This program targets food security through access to healthy cultural fruits and vegetables, and community wellness through workshops. Currently, I am working on the budgeting for a pilot of the program.
Tell us a bit about the project you are working with your Extension Mentor?
Working with my Extension Mentor, Dr. Margarita Teran-Garcia, My project is to put together training materials for the HEROES program. This program seeks to recruit, train, and provide support to Latino community volunteers to become “promotoras” (community health workers). This training is done in their native language. The HEROES program will be one among many to be implemented at the urban farming initiative.
What makes the work you are doing as an ISP Scholar meaningful to you?
I am passionate about addressing health disparities among Latino communities, and both of my projects at the ILLC/ILLCF and with my Extension mentor allows me to do just that. Expanding access to affordable healthy foods and health education can lead to better health outcomes in Latino communities.
What is one thing that you have learned since becoming an ISP Scholar that has made an impression on your transition from graduate student to career individual?
Putting what I learned about public health into practice. While in school, I learned about developing, implementing, and evaluating health programs, but through my projects at both the ILLC/ILLCF and with my Extension mentor I’ve had the opportunity to have a hands-on experience.
Why is/are the issue(s) important to the communities with which you are working?
The issues affecting Latino communities are food security and health disparities. These issues are important because access to affordable healthy food should be a right available to all. Healthy food access contributes to overall wellness of communities.
Who is impacted by the issue(s) you are working on?
Low-income Latino Chicago/Chicagoland communities such as Humboldt Park.
What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?
Although I’ve been a Scholar for a little over a month, I’m surprised with the amount I’ve had to learn about greenhouses. It’s very interesting to learn about how complex they can be!
If you could do one thing through this program and think “Wow, I did that,” what would you like it to be?
I would like to leave a positive contribution to my projects that future Scholars can use, specifically the greenhouse project I’m working on. Although it is expected that my project will have a long way to go, I hope to be proud of the contributions I make to advance the project.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with amazing mentors! They are very supportive and provide great guidance towards my projects.