By Anna Jauhola
Public health is Jacey Spaeth’s passion.
Luckily for the area, she took on a volunteer role to assist Kittson County Public Health.
Spaeth, a native of Climax, Minn., has been working communications for the public health department to include news articles, social media and some website design. When she graduated from the University of North Dakota last spring she took a break for a year and then joined AmeriCorps.
“It seemed like something I could handle,” she said. “Some of the entry level jobs don’t always seem entry level. It also resonated with some of my core values – helping people, public health based – and it seemed I could be passionate about it and enjoy what I was doing.”
Earlier this year, Jeanna Kujava, Kittson County Public Health director, applied for and received a grant through AmeriCorps to gain a volunteer.
Spaeth came on board as the public health project coordinator late this summer. She has already completed a new website for Quin County Health Services, to which Kittson Public Health belongs. She has been writing articles for the local newspapers to better communicate aspects of public health’s role in the community. And she has worked on creating more social media content.
“My main thing is communication, public health promotion of what we do,” Spaeth said.
She has a degree in public health education from UND after she started out in nursing and realized education was more her forte.
Being from a small town in Polk County, she saw the AmeriCorps assignment to Kittson County as a great opportunity. She lives in Grand Forks and mostly works from home for this position, but comes to Kittson Public Health a few times a month for in-person work.
“Coming to Kittson County felt like home,” she said. “It felt just like an extension of what I’m used to. It felt comfortable. And I’m passionate about rural health. It gets overlooked a lot.”
She has enjoyed getting to know all of Kittson County and credits Kujava for being a great supervisor and informative.
“She cares a lot about her community and she wears a lot of hats,” Spaeth said. “So learning from her has just been a really awesome experience.”
Spaeth has also been working with the newly formed Substance Abuse Task Force, which was formed to handle funds from the state opioid lawsuit settlement. She has created a separate social media campaign for that and is working on brochures for the group.
Her biggest challenge has been finding where she fits in a fully-functioning public health office. She assists Kujava mostly with anything she needs, but also works with Public Health Nurse Shunay Soliah and Receptionist Kris Wallenberg.
When she’s not earning her minimal stipend from AmeriCorps working on public health in Kittson County, Spaeth is either serving at a Grand Forks restaurant or teaching a birthing class through Sanford in Fargo.
“It’s a lot to juggle, but I love it,” she said.
She hopes her experience enhances the county’s public health office as much as she is enjoying serving the people of Kittson County. Although her appointment through AmeriCorps is up in July 2024, she already sees herself signing up for another assignment here.
“I want to continue my work here. I feel like 11 months is not long in the grand scheme of projects and putting information out there, and getting to know the community,” she said. “I would like to extend my time. If some miraculous position opened up, that would be the dream job.”
By Anna Jauhola