Yerusalem Yohannes: An Advocate for Community-Centered, Sustainable Interventions

MPH Social and Behavioral Sciences  

Yerusalem Yohannes has just completed the first semester of her graduate year in Temple's 4+1 program. She believes strongly in community involvement at every possible level of a Public Health project. As a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Yerusalem has been a valuable community liaison for an important research project that is being led by CPH faculty.  

Yerusalem Yohannes smiling on campus

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How and why did you come to choose Temple?  

I grew up in West Philly, so I have gone to school in Philly my whole life. I remember in my senior year of high school we had a career planning class, and we were researching different career paths based on our interests – I have always been involved in my community, and I knew I wanted to do something community-oriented but with more of a health aspect than social work. When I found out about public health, I knew it was the perfect fit. Temple’s public health program is great, and I especially love the vast community and network that comes with being a Temple student.  

Can you describe your experience so far in the 4+1 program?  

Basically, the 4+1 program helps you get your master's degree in a condensed period of time. Instead of doing the traditional 2-year master's program, I was able to start taking some of my graduate classes in my junior year of undergrad. It feels a bit intimidating at first because you’re jumping right into these high-level classes, but my teachers were always there to give the plus-one students the extra support that we needed.  

What kind of work have you been doing as you transition to your graduate studies? 

I am currently working as a research coordinator in a study being run by Dr. Gabriella McLoughlin, a faculty member of the College of Public Health. The study focuses on the school meals program in the School District of Philadelphia – it aims to eliminate the stigma that’s often felt by students who are singled out as qualifying for low-income meals, by instead providing all students with a free meal, regardless of their background. This study is especially important as Philly is a very food-insecure city. We want the effects of our study to be long-lasting, and to ensure that this is the case, we are involving community members as much as possible. It’s my first time working on a research project like this, and it has been a really great learning experience.  

What do you consider your community at Temple? 

As I’ve transitioned from being an undergrad to a graduate student, my community has definitely changed. One cool part of the 4+1 program is that you can begin building a rapport with your graduate advisors and professors while you’re still in undergrad, so by the time you get to your full graduate year you have lots of solid relationships already. Transitioning into my plus one year, I learned that I could always rely on my academic support –my teachers and advisors were constantly reaching out to me to make sure that I had a smooth transition, especially since my plus one path was a little untraditional in that I had to take a leave of absence for a family matter right before it. My advisors and program directors really made me feel like I was an important part of the program, and they made sure that I had everything I needed to come back strong. With Temple being such a big school, it was amazing how I received such a high level of personal and individualized support. 

What kind of advice might you offer potential graduate students, or potential 4+1 students? 

Being in a program like 4+1, there can be a lot of pride involved. Sometimes you can feel like you’re supposed to know everything, because you’ve been chosen for this accelerated program, but really you have to be ready to admit that you’re still learning, and you’re in spaces where you might not really know anything at first. Grad school is all about asking questions and being fully open to take in the experience.