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November 15, 2021

North Park Student Ambassadors Take Love Thy Neighbor to New Heights

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Up and running at North Park since June 2021, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) has 14 of North Park’s pre-health students serving as ambassadors to Chicago-based Faith in the Vaccine Outreach Program. Partnering with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) and the IFYC, student ambassadors receive training and a stipend to promote COVID-19 vaccine trust and access.

group of students and professor stand under autumn trees

Mentored by Health Professions Advisor Kristine D. Aronsson, 14 volunteer participants representing 12 languages were selected through an extensive interview process. Reaching out to cultural and religious groups where they have existing relationships, the COVID-19 vaccinated ambassadors are taking with them IFYC’s mission: Getting the vaccine is loving thy neighbor. The proverbial and relatable message is being brought to churches, places of worship, and student organizations.

“Among certain vaccine hesitant groups, ‘getting the vaccine is loving thy neighbor,’ has been an effective message,” said Aronsson.

As trained educators, student ambassadors distribute fact sheets printed in several languages including Spanish and Arabic, while talking with communities about vaccine hesitancy such as how mRNA vaccines work and what vaccines are not doing to your body. In addition to gaining vaccine trust, ambassadors promote within their communities access to receiving the vaccine, and removing common barriers like costs of transportation to/from a vaccine site and childcare. Ambassadors extend their outreach efforts to working on-site at mass vaccination clinics held at North Park’s campus, Lake County Fairgrounds, and Swedish Hospital.

The 14 student ambassadors continue to actively engage and serve their communities in innovative and culturally sensitive ways — all while allowing students to volunteer and acquire real work experience in healthcare. Since hospitals are highly selective with who they bring on-board because of COVID-19, students will be able to reference specific work experiences and why they would be a good fit in the healthcare area they are interested in pursuing.

“I am so proud of all the student ambassadors and the important work they’re doing reaching out to their communities,” said Aronsson.

For additional health professions information, contact Dr. Keith Boyd in Health Sciences.

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