Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award

Sarah van der Horst, Program Founder and Director, won the Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award for her work with Amigas en Salud

UNC PT student recognized for service to Latina community

UNC Department for Allied Health Sciences: 

UNC Doctor of Physical Therapy student Sarah van der Horst recently received the 2014 Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award from the Carolina Center for Public Service. The award, which honors the accomplishments of alumnus Robert E. Bryan (’26), is given annually to five individuals in the Carolina community who demonstrate outstanding service to the state of North Carolina.

Lisa Spees, Sarah van der Horst, and Chancellor Carol L. Folt. Photo by Dan Sears, UNC-CH 

van der Horst and other award recipients were recognized on April 2 at the annual Public Service Awards celebration, where Chancellor Carol L. Folt commended their commitment to service and to “the betterment of North Carolina and the world.” Click here to read more about the event.

van der Horst was selected for the Bryan Public Service Award in recognition of her work founding and directing Amigas en Salud, an exercise and health awareness program that provides free services, such as weekly Zumba class and bimonthly health tutorials, to underserved members of the Latina community. Some tutorials offered thus far include Domestic Violence 101 by Compass Center, Healthy Relationships by Planned Parenthood, Contraception by Abigail Liberty (UNC School of Medicine student), How to Clean and Lift Pain Free by Sarah van der Horst, and many more.

Classes and programs are all delivered in Spanish, and facilitated by volunteers, many of whom are current UNC School of Medicine, Social Work, Physical Therapy, Public Health, and undergraduate students.  In addition to Sarah’s leadership, the Amigas en Salud’s executive team consists of Romina Boyle (Zumba instructor), Lisa Spees (doctoral student in Public Policy), Stephanie Schmitt (master’s student in Interdisciplinary Health Communication), and Mitzy Gonzalez (master’s student of Social Work).

The program has received support from the Student Action Coalition (SHAC), El Centro Hispano, the Seymour Center, YMCA, Fleet Feet, Footcentric, Farmer Foodshare, and other private donors, and continues to seek assistance to expand and improve its offerings. More information on Amigas en Salud can be found at

van der Horst had previously been recognized for her service with the 2013 UNC Hospitals Volunteer Association’s Community Service Fellowship, which is awarded to a UNC Department of Allied Health Sciences’ student who has demonstrated academic excellence, professional potential, and extensive community service.

Eleven individuals and groups to be honored for public service

University Gazette at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:  

April 1, 2014 – 10:01 am | Posted in CampusLeadershipResearchServiceTeachingWorking at Carolina

Neighborhood engagement, promoting health literacy in the Latino community and expanding interpersonal violence prevention at UNC are some of the projects the University will recognize with 2014 Public Service Awards.

Eleven individuals and organizations representing students, faculty, staff and community partners, will be honored April 2 at the annual Public Service Awards celebration, sponsored by the Carolina Center for Public Service.


William Gentry

“Since its founding, UNC has been a university dedicated to public service,” said Lynn Blanchard, director of the center. “Through a variety of efforts, the work of these 11 individuals and organizations embodies this commitment, and we are proud to honor them as outstanding examples of Carolina’s engagement with the community.”

William Gentry, assistant director and executive programs director for the Community Preparedness and Disaster Management program in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, will receive the Ned Brooks Award for Public Service honoring his decades-long commitment to disaster preparedness and his impact in the field of emergency management. The award is named for Brooks, a Carolina faculty member and administrator for 40 years, in recognition of a sustained record of community service.


2014 Public Service Awards winners are (left to right) Kelly Hogan, Richard Goldberg and Tracey West.

Three Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Awards will honor individuals and campus units:

  • Richard Goldberg, research associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, will be honored for engaged teaching. His students work with community organizations, health-care providers, teachers and job coaches to develop assistive devices for individuals with disabilities that will allow them to become more independent at work, at school, in their homes or int he community.
  • Kathryn Hunter-Williams, a lecturer in the Department of Dramatic Art, will be honored for engaged research for her work on the school-to-prison pipeline. Her project, None of the Above, explores the intersection of race, poverty, educational policies and incarceration through many different voices, including juvenile justice officials and the incarcerated.
  • The Supporting Change and Reform in Preservice Teaching in North Carolina (SCRIPT-NC), an effort of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center will be honored for community partnership with four community college early-childhood programs designed to meet the needs of all children in their communities, including those with disabilities and those who are culturally and linguistically diverse.


Sarah van der Horst (center), a Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award recipient, and Lisa Spees pose with Chancellor Carol L. Folt (right) at the ceremony.

Four individuals and one organization will receive the Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award, recognizing exemplary public service efforts:

  • Zack Kaplan, an American studies and political science double major, works with the advocacy and outreach team at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center in Chapel Hill’s historic Northside neighborhood. His goal is to help unify the neighborhood and alleviate the disconnect between students and permanent residents there.
  • Sarah van der Horst, a physical therapy doctoral student, works with Amigas en Salud to provide health literacy and other tools, ranging from exercise classes to nutrition information, to advance the health and independence of underserved Latinas in the Triangle area.
  • pub_serve_winners_bpleas_400Folt congratulates Bryan Award recipient Bob Pleasants.Robert Pleasants, interpersonal violence prevention coordinator and adjunct assistant professor of health behavior in the Gillings School, teaches the Leadership and Violence Prevention service-learning course, and he has created the related One Act education program for violence prevention. Each semester, Pleasants places students with community and campus organizations.
  • Kelly Hogan, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology, teaches a service-learning course geared to increase blood platelet donation awareness. Through work with the UNC Blood Donation Center, Hogan’s students focus marketing and education efforts on diverse student groups and the local community.
  • Enrich ESL, a Campus Y committee, provides English tutoring to Chapel Hill’s Latino community, fostering connections and understanding to help address injustices and build stronger communities.

The inaugural Mingma Norbu Sherpa Fellowship will be presented to senior biology major William Gerhard, for his work evaluating the effectiveness of new drinking water infrastructure systems on the Galapagos Island of San Cristobal. He also plans to work with local scientists to create a lab that can assess the effectiveness of water treatment and distribution systems on the island for years to come.

The Davis Projects for Peace Award will be presented to Multilateral Dialogue in the Prokletije/Bjeshkët e Namuna (Accursed Mountains), providing funding for senior geography major Kelsey Aho’s project to foster a multicultural dialogue promoting regional trust and stability.

Five Bryan Social Innovation Fellowships, eight Community Engagement Fellows and 12 North Carolina Outward Bound scholarship recipients will also be recognized during the April 2 event.

To learn more about the center and the awards, see ccps.unc.ed

Feature Stories

A Healthy Escape

Britz A Typical Saturday

Each Saturday, a group of Latina women come together in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  A IMG_5366few are new faces, but many have known each other for several weeks.  Amidst the chatting and smiles, first-timers are greeted by Sarah, the founder and director of Amigas en Salud (formerly known as the Latina Wellness Initiative, or LWI.)

Sarah stands up to welcome everyone and make announcements about the day’s session, and reminds them to pick up vegetables before they leave.  Everything is in Spanish.

She then introduces Romina, who greets the twenty or so women, and walks over to the stereo.

The loud Latin music begins to pulse through the speakers, and within seconds the entire group is dancing: Zumba has begun.

Romina shouts encouragement while leading the class through song after song, and any participant who showed initial hesitation is soon moving and shaking with a smile to match the rest.

After an hour of Zumba, the participants take a break and Sarah introduces the tutorial.  This week it is on the topic of breast cancer awareness and screening, and the instructor emphasizes the importance of doing regular self-exams, as well as having a mammogram done on a regular basis by a trained health professional.

Bagnols-sur-Cèze Amigas en Salud: The Beginning 

On May 4th, 2013, the Amigas en Salud officially began.  Sarah van der Horst, then a first year Physical Therapy doctoral student, had been working for months to design and put together the program.  Sarah came to UNC because of the SHAC (Student Health Action Coalition) clinic, and her desire to work with underserved populations in the community.

The US population of Latinos has a 21 percent higher prevalence of obesity than non-Hispanic Whites, and obesity can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.

Regular physical activity and healthy eating are key in the prevention and control of diabetes and high blood pressure, and lead also to a sense of community, and mental and physical wellness.

Sarah realized that, though there is a great need for health and wellness programs for Latinas in the area, there was nothing like Amigas en Salud in existence.

Amigas en Salud is an exercise and health awareness program for Latinas in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community. It is designed to target especially the underserved who do not have access to proper healthcare and health services, and to provide quality health education and a fun hour of fitness through Zumba.

IMG_5238 - Version 2

The program includes free medical screenings, diet consultations, and the weekly sessions of exercise and tutorials.


Participants are recruited from local health fairs and the SHAC clinic.  Sarah goes to health fairs to give out information about Amigas and takes down the contact information for interested women so that she can invite them to the next session.  At SHAC, information about Amigas en Salud is given to Latina patients and to Latino men to pass on to their wives.  Amigas en Salud is just for women, which minimizes insecurities and allows for a high level of trust and openness in the group.

buy cenforce no prescription Tutorials

Amigas en Salud meets every Saturday afternoon for Zumba, and most weeks a tutorial follows. Sarah requests topic ideas from the participants and invites local experts (medical students, physicians, and other professionals) to come and run a tutorial, which lasts anywhere from twenty minutes to one hour.  Some tutorial topics have included:

  • Sexual health and education
  • Self-defense
  • Hypertension
  • Healthy eating
  • Proper body mechanics

In late November, a project called “Free Your Feet” ran a session on podiatry and provided each woman with a new pair of shoes fit especially for her feet.

After the tutorial, most women stay around for a bit to help Sarah clean up, and each woman is given a bag of fresh vegetables, which is donated from Farmer Foodshare or bought from POP.

Programs supplying nutrition information and education to Latina women are vital; since most Latina women prepare food for their entire family, changing their dietary norms will go on to change the nutrition and diet of their families as well, in the hopes of reversing the growth in obesity levels.


buy cheap neurontin in iowa overnight Not Just About Physical Health

Zumba is a fun and energy-filled workout, and is a highlight of the week for many participants.  It has helped raise energy levels, and ease arthritic and back pain.

Though Amigas en Salud focuses on exercise and health awareness, there are benefits that transcend physical health.  A clear community has formed through the program, and many women have friendships that carry on throughout the week.

Several participants describe Amigas as a time to escape from their worries at home and in their family.  It gives them a chance to get distracted, even if just for a few minutes each week, from the stress and struggles of daily life.

Other Efforts for Latina Health

There are various other initiatives in place to serve the growing local Latino community.  Claire Chu, the Latino Services Coordinator at The Compass Center for victims of domestic violence, and a MPH from UNC, has worked with Latino health in an academic and professional capacity for the past six years.

“We are in an area that is very unique in that it houses a large hub of academicians who have combined their knowledge with practice,” she says. “This combination creates strategic and evidence-based initiatives to counter the health inequities that exist for Latinos in this area. Amigas en Salud is a great platform for those organic and seamless relationships to be built with the Latino community and facilitates the achievement of the overall goal toward health equity.”

Amigas Onward

Though Sarah’s efforts are the clear driver for Amigas’ growth, she credits many people that have joined the effort and assisted her in developing the program into what it is today, including several fellow UNC students and SHAC clinic volunteers.

More than anything, Sarah loves seeing benefits Amigas en Salud has for the participants.

“It seems that they’re really happy, and I’m happy,” she says.

Sarah would love Amigas en Salud, which is already seeing success in its first year, to continue long into the future, and is hoping to raise awareness and longer term financial support to ensure that the program is truly sustainable.

In the near future, there are many exciting things coming to Amigas en Salud, including tutorials on:

  • Health insurance
  • Domestic violence
  • Immunizations
  • Other community resources

And perhaps a repeat of Sarah’s favorite tutorial: the self-defense class, in which the instructor demonstrated the different moves, and everyone made 4 lines and had one person in each line with a big stuffed animal that each participant practiced the move on.

The entire group of women did a power cry, and the room was filled with laughter.

That day epitomizes Amigas en Salud.

Sarah and her growing team are deeply invested in raising the fitness, health awareness and education for local Latina women, and have created an environment that does not only that, but also fosters community and friendship, and allows for laughter and joy to fill each Saturday afternoon.