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Alumnus Brings Nutrition and Health into Focus for York County’s Youth

Melissa St Cloud

In a budding career marked by a commitment to community well-being, Melissa Saint Cloud ’20, blends her biology background with a passion for nutrition.

When Melissa Saint Cloud ’20 reached her junior year at York College of Pennsylvania, she felt lost. She was a Medical Laboratory Science major as part of a 3+1 program. The final part of the program would be a yearlong clinical study at an area hospital.

But there was a problem: She wasn’t accepted into either of the clinical programs to which she applied.

“​​I thought it was over. I didn’t have a plan B,” she says.

At the same time, while serving an externship in a lab at York Hospital, Saint Cloud realized she no longer wanted to be a lab technologist. With a mix of fear and hope, she switched her major to Biology. She had to take summer classes and work overtime to complete the new degree program.

The process was grueling, but every effort helped her prepare for her current position as Community Progress Council’s Health and Nutrition Manager.

A new plan

As a Biology major, Saint Cloud had to complete a research project to graduate. That experience helped prepare her to earn her Master of Public Health degree from Drexel University and taught her time management and perseverance.

“Being able to balance doing a research project and being in school prepared me to get my master’s while working full-time and doing an internship with a research project,” she says.

Saint Cloud knew she wanted to work in a healthcare field that included a human connection, but being a nurse or doctor didn’t appeal to her. With her master’s degree in hand, she began working for the City of York Bureau of Health, dealing with federal grants for various health topics and developing a multifaceted approach to addressing health inequities. That experience laid the foundation for her position at Community Progress Council (CPC).

“With CPC, doing health and nutrition, I got to combine my biology and public health background into one job,” she says.

Something different every day

At CPC, every day looks different for Saint Cloud. She oversees health and nutrition for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program. This includes arranging health and dental screenings for students across York County’s numerous ECE programs. She also works to develop and monitor menus to ensure that students receive nutritious and culturally inclusive meals.

Saint Cloud spends much of her time conducting community outreach, working to improve the quality of the ECE health and nutrition program and address disparities and inequities while building partnerships with county organizations. She hosts a Health Services Advisory Committee where health and nutrition professionals throughout York County can network and discuss topics related to their jobs.

“The only thing I feel like I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of collaborations within the community,” she says. “Being in community health, one of the biggest things I work on is building partnerships. It’s hard when everyone wants to stay in their bubble.”

The most rewarding aspect of Saint Cloud’s work is witnessing the tangible impact of CPC’s programs, especially in changing children’s perspectives on food. One of her alterations to the ECE programs has been the addition of more culturally specific foods that students eat at home. Some of the new favorites include mangoes, plantains, and arroz con queso, or rice with cheese.

“Just by changing some of the foods on our menus, having them be more culturally inclusive, we expose some children to new foods they otherwise would not try and create a familiar food experience for others. It’s rewarding,” she says.

Saint Cloud hopes to continue honing CPC’s health and nutrition program by integrating more services for families, such as helping them navigate the healthcare system and advocate for themselves and their children. Her goal is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and families throughout York County, a place she never imagined being when she decided to change her major.

“Even if your initial plan does not work, it’s not the end-all be-all of things,” Saint Cloud says. “Your actual path might have just gotten clearer.”