By: Alissa Siegenthaler, Wisconsin AHEC statewide communications assistant
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Nic Werbeckes graduated from UW-Madison in May 2013 with a degree in dietetics. Desiring a career in a rural setting one day, Werbeckes’ future plans include medical school to pursue family medicine, internal medicine or pediatrics. Werbeckes was placed in Wood County in central Wisconsin for his summer 2013 CHIP internship and worked with The Family Center in Wisconsin Rapids. The Family Center is a rural, non-profit agency that provides shelter and supportive services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Services include:
- Safe shelter 24-hours a day, 7 days a week
- Advocacy for people involved in abuse
- Self-help & support groups
- Referrals to other service agencies in the area
- Varying programs for victims, children, etc.
- Pet Safety Program, with the humane society
“This internship is the backstage pass of public health. Behind the scenes may not be exactly as you expect, but there is certainly more for you to learn than you can anticipate. An illuminating internship that facilitates professional experience and connections, Wisconsin AHEC delivered a rewarding couple of months.” – Nic Werbeckes
Over the eight-week internship, Werbeckes had two primary objectives at The Family Center:
1. Life skills curriculum for The Family Center clients
The objective of the life skills curriculum was to give clients the opportunity to learn about different foods and how to meal plan. Werbeckes taught a basic skills course where participants discussed useful practices for meal planning on a tight budget.
2. Employee wellness program
Collaborating with fellow staff members, Werbeckes initiated different ways to incorporate health and wellness into work year-round. This program involves Beach Bound, an exercise-a-thon promoting physical activity, weekly stretching to help with stress release, ideas for healthy meals and snacks at work, and several other month-long modules that promote forms of wellness, such as a reading and journaling modules to promote mental wellness.
“With Nic on site, we were able to launch an employee wellness initiative and a client life skills program that will benefit both staff and clients. Nic introduced staff to new activities and cultivated an excitement about wellness that had not been present at the worksite before. Clients were also able to learn from Nic and take practical skills and knowledge with them as they re-entered life outside of shelter.” – DaNita Carlson, Executive Director, The Family Center
In addition to these projects, Werbeckes also assisted The Family Center with networking in the community. This involved partnering with local agencies such as UW-Extension to build a cost-saving rain barrel collection system and YMCA to locate low-cost exercise equipment. Communicating through Facebook and while maintaining the Family Center gardens, Werbeckes was able to promote healthy habits and provide tips on how to incorporate such habits into a busy schedule.