In March we welcomed Jonaé Brown to the Healthy Durham 20/20 team as our inaugural Senior Communications Intern. A soon-to-be graduate of North Carolina Central University, Jonaé will be with us part-time for a term of approximately one year, helping us talk to the people of Durham County on social media and in-person at events around the area.
To help you get to know her better, we asked Jonaé about her life, her goals, and why she cares about making Durham healthier.
What is your background?
I am an army brat, and have lived in Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, and five years in Germany. My family has traveled a lot! My most memorable travel experience was Disney World in Paris—we almost got left behind by the tour bus. While living in Germany I frequently took class trips to castles.
When I first started school at NCCU I knew I wanted to study something that would help people, particularly young children. After taking a stab at Nursing and Biology, I realized that I didn’t have the passion for those fields. My mom suggested Mass Communications, and I liked it because it connected me to things I enjoy doing in real life. At NCCU I co-hosted a show called The Juice on the student-run radio station, AudioNet.
How did you get interested in health and health equity?
My parents reinforced healthy eating habits when I was a child. When I eat healthier, I notice that my body starts craving healthy foods instead of fast food. My palate has also changed and I’m more open to trying new things, but I probably won’t ever like cooked broccoli.
In my first class with Dr. Charmaine McKissick-Melton at NCCU, I did a project on Food and Health. I worked with the NCCU Fab Lab on a program called “Oh Health No,” and gave a presentation in class on homeopathic practices for healing yourself through healthy eating.
Dr. McKissick-Melton shared the Healthy Durham 20/20 internship program with me, and also helped me prepare for the application and interview process.
What have you learned in your first few weeks at Healthy Durham 20/20?
I’ve been learning a lot about the nuances of community engagement with different groups in Durham, and I didn’t realize I would get to meet so many different kinds of people. I’ve already interacted with everyone from local government to activists to ordinary Durham residents.
I’ve been affected by learning about adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed care and have been able to share some of my new insights with family and friends. I already feel more compassion for people who have been through or are struggling with different types of trauma, or are restricted in their movement due to issues related to threats of deportation.
I want to be able to share this experience with other people and be able to pass along what I learn to the next intern that joins the Healthy Durham 20/20 team. I hope that the knowledge I share inspires them and gives them guidance not just on health communication but also health equity.