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Designed for Action: December Graduate, Political Science Major Helps Create PA Lead Exposure Education Program

December 19, 2023
Jay Hynes speaking at Commencement

At York College, students aren’t just reading textbooks and listening to lectures. They’re working on community projects, solving real-world problems, and using their education to effect change. In Designed for Action, we meet the students who are making an impact outside of the classroom.

December graduate and Political Science major Jay Hynes ’23 is on a mission to make the world around them better.

From the Fall 2022 semester until Summer 2023, Hynes worked as a Pennsylvania Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance (PennOSHS) intern for the Department of Health Division of Environmental Health Epidemiology. Among various other duties, Hynes helped create a prototype continuing education program to help share the dangers of lead exposure with the public. The experience, they say, was “rewarding.”

“I knew it would eventually be developed into a program that could teach the public about lead exposure. That project had the most impact on public health, and it was rewarding to be a part of the process,” they add.

A rewarding experience

As an intern for the Department of Health, Hynes learned about the dangers of lead exposure firsthand. Exposure to lead leads to a higher risk of elevated blood levels, which can cause many health complications, including hypertension, joint damage, and cancer.

“The state of Pennsylvania still trends as one of the highest states in regard to elevated blood lead levels. This is because the infrastructure of many public buildings and houses in the Commonwealth were built before the 1950s; thus, the pipes and the paint in these buildings are contaminated with lead,” they explain. “This, in combination with occupational lead exposure, causes PA citizens to be at a higher risk of elevated blood lead levels, which then cause a variety of health complications. Public schools in major cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have lead-contaminated water due to old water pipes still being in use, which puts our children at risk of elevated blood lead levels, and harms their development significantly.”

In addition to creating a lead-exposure education program, many of Hynes’ other responsibilities revolved around lead exposure as well.

“I conducted over-the-phone interviews about occupational lead exposure. I used Microsoft Excel to chart elevated blood lead levels based on the toxicology reports sent to the Department of Health. I created a continuing education program prototype using Articulate 360 on the Dangers of Lead occupationally and non-occupationally, and I also created infographics on lead exposure and take-home lead using Canva,” they add.

One of the biggest challenges they had with the internship was adapting to a work-from-home routine. Holding yourself accountable for everything isn’t an easy task, they say.

“Holding yourself accountable to complete work in the comfort of your own bed was challenging. Additionally, balancing a 15-hour-a-week internship on top of a full-time course schedule and two other part-time jobs was a routine that took time to get used to,” Hynes says. “I had to categorize my time by creating daily schedules for myself in order to complete the tasks in a timely manner.”

When it was required, they traveled to and from Harrisburg and worked in the Capitol complex. The experience was their “favorite” part of the internship.

“It was nice to work within a city because it is so different from my normal everyday life, and it was refreshing to work in the Capitol complex because it made me feel validated in my career choice,” they add.

Charting a path forward

Throughout the internship, there were two courses that were of particular use to Hynes: their Quantitative Analysis course and State and Local Governments class, both taught by Dr. John Altman, Professor of Political Science at the College.

“Through Quantitative Analysis, I learned how to properly chart and analyze data using SPSS (a series of software programs that analyze social sciences data), which came to great use while charting data and drawing conclusions from that data on elevated blood lead levels,” Hynes explains.

“Additionally, I used my knowledge from the class State and Local Governments to understand how the public sector works. Through this class, I was taught how policy is formed and adopted at a state level, and that information was useful in understanding the oversight process for approval on my continuing education module prototype from the Department of Health.”

Hynes has big plans after graduation. In addition to being selected as Commencement speaker for the Fall 2023 graduating class (which they found out about while in Washington, D.C., attending Model European Union), they’ve been accepted to Widener Commonwealth Law in Harrisburg, PA, and have also taken on a position at the YWCA York as an Assistant Group Supervisor for the School Age Program.

Widener is located near the Capitol complex, and boasts many employment opportunities in the Commonwealth due to its Capitol proximity, Hynes says.

“I was recently accepted to Widener Law Commonwealth with a $21,000 yearly merit scholarship. I have a deep interest in family law and legal advocacy. Widener attracted me the most due to its Advocacy certificate program,” they add. “Many of the Commonwealth lawyers and employees also attended Widener, and I was recommended the school by my supervisor at the time of my internship.”

Additionally, it’s York College they thank for pursuing their position at the YWCA York. A course in Victim and Survivor Advocacy encouraged them to consider working with the organization full-time, and they’ve never looked back.

“York College is more of the reason why I sought employment at the YWCA. I took a class called Victim and Survivor Advocacy, which is taught in partnership with the YWCA York.

Through this class and a class called Family Diversity and Society, I became very enthusiastic about human services,” Hynes says. “Through this position, I can give back to the community, while taking the first baby steps into the world of advocacy work by working with an advocacy agency. I hope to grow within this company.”

After a whirlwind of experiences at York College, Hynes has their eyes set on the future, but they’ve never lost gratitude for the opportunities they’ve been afforded while at the College.

“I am grateful for every opportunity I have been granted. I am thankful for every person I have ever met at this institution. I will keep YCP close to my heart,” they add.