Direct Services Program Manager Jenn Spiller Accepts Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Fellowship

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If you’ve never played a game at work of figuring out each other’s animal counterpart, I highly suggest you start. Essentially, you try to find out the essence of the person and compare it to an animal. In the Healthy Homes office, Direct Services Program Manager Jenn Spiller has been unanimously confirmed to be a swan: graceful, beautiful, poised, reserved, intelligent, but you know better than to mess with her.

Jenn Spiller has accomplished many exciting things since starting with Healthy Homes in 2012, but she’s outdone herself this time. This spring, she’s been accepted as a fellow at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, pursuing a Masters in Public Health, focusing on environmental challenges.

Her program will allow her to continue to work for Healthy Homes in Grand Rapids, while taking classes both online and on-campus in Baltimore. Jenn’s thesis project will be focused on Healthy Homes and will help her continue to serve the people of Grand Rapids with support from a major research university.

Though she would be too modest to tell you herself, Jenn had several impressive offers for graduate study, including an acceptance to the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. She ultimately went with the program at Johns Hopkins because of its renowned ranking for public health, the generous funding offer, and for “the ability to directly apply what I will learn to the field, in a place I know very well.”

Jenn’s interest in public health grew out of undergrad pre-med courses, which lead to a specific  interest in the social determinants of health. In one semester at Grand Valley, she was taking courses in Marxism, Genetics, and a gender studies class on Women, Environment and Health simultaneously. Connecting her new knowledge and reflecting on her own life experiences developed into a passion for social justice. Essentially, the swan got woke. And she’s been making waves ever since.

After graduation, she found the job for Healthy Homes on Craigslist and thought it was serendipity.  

“It felt like the job was written for me. It was in my neighborhood, and was related to environmental justice.”

Jenn has been working for Healthy Homes since graduating with a Bachelors in Liberal Studies six years ago. Outside of the Executive Director, she is the longest standing employee at Healthy Homes, and is armed with tremendous knowledge and experience. Her work largely involves home visiting, assessing homes, and educating families on unsafe housing risks, including lead hazards, asthma, pests, and fire risks.  She has seen many changes during her time at Healthy Homes, and has made positive changes for hundreds of families.

“Many days, the problem [of unsafe housing] feels overwhelming, especially due to a lack of affordable housing. Some families have to choose between living in an unsafe home or being homeless. It gives me hope that there is now so much awareness, especially with how Parents for Healthy Homes has taken off.”

As a Bloomberg fellow, Jenn will continue to help keep kids of West Michigan safe. And as the mysterious swan in our office, she continues to surprise. If you see her, ask her about going to Standing Rock, scaling part of the Great Wall of China, and what’s on her current hip-hop playlists.

 


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