Growth Through Summercise Internship

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10 weeks, 9+ projects, 8 rotations, 7 interns, 6 Summercise classes, 5 dollar gas prices, 4 pounds of sea glass, 3 thousand miles, 2 villages and 1 adventure of a lifetime.

Since I have returned back to the lower 48, and my home in Minnesota, the hardest question I have been asked is, “What did you do this summer?” How can I possibly even begin to explain the clinical experience, village travel, community events and everything else that contributed to my experience in Nome? As I reflect back on my Summercise internship, I have realized that it is less important to share what I did in Nome, and more important to share how I have grown because of it.

While I have shared my experiences of high food prices, Lemonade Day, the Midnight Sun Festival, village travel, community involvement and various outdoor adventures, I have not yet described my experience with the whole reason I am in Nome – Summercise!  Summercise is an award-winning program that intends to prevent diabetes through educating youth about healthy nutrition and physical activity lifestyles. While it all sounds neatly put together, I can pretty much summarize my Summercise experience with two words: organized chaos. Throughout the course of two sessions, I taught classes including cultural cooking, a treasure hunt, cooking in mugs, gymnastics, track and field, and swimming lessons to more than 150 kids ages 5-13.

No matter how much time I put into preparing and organizing my lesson plans, I learned that it’s just not possible to predict exactly how the day is going to go. Being a Summercise intern taught me one of the greatest lessons in professional growth – adaptability. When bathroom breaks take 25 minutes rather than 5, lesson plans must be abridged. If it’s pouring rain outside, treasure hunt maps need to be re-routed. If we run out of paper plates, coffee filters will work! While it took me a while to catch on that things rarely go as planned at Summercise, I eventually learned to be flexible with my classes, leading to less stress and more fun for myself and the kiddos!

Early on in our internship, our supervisor discussed with the seven of us interns that each of us were selected to be a Summercise intern, out of over 100 applicants, because individually we were the best of the best. We each held the capacity to be a strong leader in a unique way. While at first I welcomed the praise, I soon realized that she intended this more as precautionary advice. We soon found out that when seven strong leaders are put into one room an expected to cohesively plan one program, we are bound to butt heads and disagree. Although we were all dietetics or nutritional sciences majors, we each came from around the country with different backgrounds, approaches and perspectives. One of the biggest challenges was learning to separate our professional lives from our personal lives. That can be hard to do when sharing a bedroom with three other interns and sharing a bathroom with six!

Eventually, I learned when to take a step back and listen to other people’s suggestions. Rather than competing for who had the best ideas, we learned to cooperate and utilize each other’s strengths in order to come up with a better Summercise program together than any of us could have created alone. If I learned anything this summer, it is how to be both a leader and a team player. This trip would not have been the same without every single one of the interns and their unique contributions. After 10 weeks, my co-interns quickly became some of my greatest friends and I sincerely hope to see them all again soon!

Finally, as a student-athlete on the UW-Stevens Point women’s swimming and diving team, it seemed imminent that my dietetics career would eventually lead me into a sports nutrition career path. It is a topic that I am passionate about and even co-founded the UWSP Sports Nutrition Association. That being said, I may have tried to settle into my niche of dietetics without exploring other areas in the field. This summer I was pushed out of my comfort zone of working with athletes in sports nutrition. I was exposed to a new community setting in which I discovered a passion for working in pediatrics, and more specifically maternal and child health. I am so excited to start classes at UWSP in just a few weeks with an open mind of all the possibilities and future career paths that dietetics could lead me into!

Overall, I could not have asked for a better way to spend my summer. I certainly have a stronger bond with my dad, as not many people can say that they have seen or done the things that we have experience in Nome, even though it was 30 years apart. The personal and professional growths I have gained are worth every mile I traveled. I would undoubtedly recommend the Summercise internship to my fellow School of Health Promotion and Human Development peers if they have a passion for working with children and a minority population. I am grateful to have been immersed into such a rich culture and to experience such rare once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. As the saying goes, “There’s no place like Nome.”


Jackie Braun ’18 is a dietetics major and psychology minor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.