CEMHD Interns Partner with SNUG to Address Gun Violence

CEMHD interns Yerusa Asher, Patrisha Kritchman, and
Shanice Saunders
This fall, the Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities partnered with the Community and Public Service Program to develop an internship in which students assist the Trinity Alliance's anti-gun violence program, SNUG ("guns" spelled backwards).  Modeled after Chicago Cease Fire, recently renamed Cure Violence, SNUG uses a public health approach to interrupt the epidemic of gun violence before it spreads.  The program hires field staff, called Violence Interrupters, from the neighborhoods it serves and trains them to work with people at highest risk for perpetrating or becoming a victim of gun violence. The program also conducts community mobilization and outreach activities to create a visible community presence after shootings and to change social norms about gun violence.

SNUG is of particular interest to CEMHD because of its public health model. This semester the Center sent three human biology majors to assist with the program: Yerusa Asher, Patrisha Kritchman, and Shanice Saunders.

These days, college students possess excellent computer and social networking skills that can be put to great use in grassroots community organizations like SNUG, which tend to operate with a bare-bones office staff.  Our enthusiastic CEMHD interns have made real contributions to the organization.  Among other things, they have redesigned printed materials, including posters and brochures, helped the Community Outreach and Mobilization coordinator create a website, and have improved information sharing about shooting incidents among SNUG staff.  They also help update SNUG's Facebook page, assist with planning community events, and have even attended neighborhood shooting responses. Plans are in the works to involve interns in direct involvement with the community, such as working with churches and local businesses.

In return for sharing their computer skills, the interns have learned a lot about SNUG's public health approach to gun violence, issues facing people in poor neighborhoods, how grassroots organizations do community mobilization, and nonprofit communications.

But the experience with SNUG has meant more than that to them as individuals.

Yerusa Asher is an international student from Pakistan. Her father is a community organizer who held high-level positions at a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) before starting his own.  Yerusa aspires to follow in his footprints.  She wants to be a dentist and form her own international NGO to improve the oral health of people living in poverty around the world. She was interested in being an intern with SNUG in order to learn about how small nonprofits do community outreach and education.  The things she has learned at SNUG have given her good ideas for running her own organization some day in the future.

Patrisha Kritchman
comes from a family affected by gun violence. Her father was shot as a youth and, with guidance counselors discouraging him from continuing his high school education, ended up in jail. Through the SNUG internship, she has been become more aware of how gun violence can have long-term impacts on whole families, not just the shooting victim, and the importance of seeing violence as a public health issue.

Shanice Saunders
is a member of the student group Third World Impact, which helped build a primary school in Uganda. She has also done health volunteer work in Madagascar. This time she wanted to be involved in making a difference locally, and was interested in observing SNUG's public health model at work. During her internship Shanice has been able to make real-life connections to other health issues discussed in her courses, which given her further enthusiasm for her classes and a health-related career.

CEMHD has been very proud of the contributions these three students have made to SNUG and will continue to run the internship program next semester.

For more information on SNUG and how you can help, contact the Community Mobilization and Outreach Coordinator at: (518) 694-9191.

(Written by Dr. Elizabeth Campisi, Special Projects Director, Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities)