Meeting challenges, strengthening community

Ionia VirginIiona Virgin is a senior in the Human Services Leadership online program. She currently lives in Madison, Wis. with her husband and three children. She took a roundabout way to get to the degree program she is in. Virgin was told about this program after realizing that she wanted to be a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Social Worker after her youngest child spent her first 5 1/2 weeks in St. Mary’s NICU.

She is currently on the board of South West (Madison) Community Organizing Committee, is a grassroots organizer and is very involved in her community. When Virgin is not working, studying, transporting, volunteering, planning, in meetings, taking notes, typing notes… she can be found curled up with a good book, with a camera in-hand or out completing her family’s Wisconsin Bucket List.

The second time around with “finding” an internship was rather easy. Let me give a little background. I had the hardest time with my first internship finding a site to intern at. I live in Madison and the first problem I ran into was the fact that I live in a college town—and not just any college town. When I first tried finding a site I searched out all sites and places that were places of interest to me, things that focused on what I wanted to do or what I might want to do after graduation. After those sites fell through, I resorted to cold calling and emailing people through the United Way website and referrals from different people. The second problem I kept running into was I was not a graduate student, and that I wasn’t connected to UW-Madison. In the end I would say, ask tons of questions, search early and don’t give up even if you keep running into road blocks.

I did not give up and I happened to have found my awesome internship site by chance. I am a board member of a group called, South West (Madison) Community Organizing Committee. Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) has a nurse that worked with this group and one day I just decided to ask her if they took interns that were not nursing students, and they did! I was so excited and instantly started the process to be allowed to become a Public Health Intern (it was a process (about 3 months), and after me no one will have any issues with becoming an intern with PHMDC.

My title is South West Action Coordinator and I work with Public Health Madison Dane County with the Health Equity Team. I started out doing needs assessments in specific communities, helping the community narrow down their top three priorities, forming a work group to work on those priorities, putting together a winnable goal and working with the group with the actions steps to reach their goal. As of right now I work in the Southwest area of Madison (of which I am a resident), and have been since September 2011 as an intern. This semester we are working on strengthening a certain community to work on traffic safety issues and other priorities. Because we were having troubles with getting and retaining community residents in a transient area to attend on a regular basis community meetings, we have decided to move the meetings from the outskirts of the neighborhood (at the local school) to the actual neighborhood by hosting several House Meetings, with our first one on February 6. By the end of the semester we plan to have 7 house meetings in our target area. We will be calling these house meetings visioning sessions with the community, we want the community to dream big on what and how they see their community and go from there.

2 Responses to “Meeting challenges, strengthening community”


  • Iiona. It is so nice to put your face to the name I recognize well. I hope you are very proud of what you have accomplished. Madison Public Health is certainly a benefactor. It sounds like a win/win for both you and the site. Best wishes for continued success this semester and beyond. Thanks for blogging.

  • I am very proud of myself, it took a lot to get to where I am. PHMDC is an awesome place to intern at and on many occasions I have been asked if I would join their team. Since starting this process I have been able to narrow down significantly what it is I would like to do once I graduate. Now to find this same type of work and not have to be a nurse will be the next hurdle I will have to jump. Thanks.

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