Written by Christina Afonin, AHEC Scholar

Meet Sydney Burns!
Sydney Burns, a longtime Anchorage resident, received her BSN from UAA in December 2019 and is a registered nurse, currently working at Southcentral AHEC as a Health Educator Coordinator. As a nursing student, Sydney was also an AHEC Scholar. Participating in the AHEC Scholar program served to enhance her dream of giving back to her community through education and the healthcare industry. Regarding her experience as an AHEC Scholar, she says, “Learning about health disparities and the influence of social determinants of health really led me to want to focus on community health. The power of public health is that you can improve the lives of those you’ve never even met, here and now, and in the future.”

As an AHEC Scholar, Sydney was able to teach a behavioral health camp to high school students in Kodiak. She was able to lead art therapy and team builders with these students and found the experience to be impactful for the students as well as herself. Sydney was also involved with Catholic Social Services’ Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services program, where she created a curriculum to help navigate programs such as SNAP, WIC and how to utilize the Farmer’s Markets in Anchorage. She found the AHEC Scholar program to be illuminating as she was able to expand her knowledge in a way that she wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.

After finishing nursing school, she wanted to pursue a career in public health education and is currently enrolled in UAA’s Master of Public Health Program. Sydney also works with Alaska Primary Care Association (APCA), working on the development and support of Community Health Centers with contact tracing on behalf of the State of Alaska. Sydney started working with AHEC as a temporary hire to offer some teaching days but was quickly hired on full time as a Health Education Coordinator. Sydney loves learning and reports that, “AHEC is constantly growing and evolving. I love that we are always working on new projects and coming up with new ways to serve our community. I am excited to see what the new year brings.” She teaches in AHEC’s PATH Academies which offer adult education classes and high school camps, as well as working with AHEC Scholars in Southcentral by connecting and placing the Scholars into their desired CBEL. She has additionally taught classes like Mental Health First Aid and Adverse Childhood Experiences and says, “The most rewarding part of my job is helping to make people’s goals attainable and empower them to truly believe they can achieve anything they can dream of. I love working with the folks we work with.”

In her free-time, Sydney spends time with her family, friends and her pups, as well as volunteering. She volunteers with Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department and is additionally working on becoming an EMT1. When asked about how she stays motivated in all her endeavors, she eloquently stated, “I love learning and I can’t stop myself from jumping into a project when I am interested in it. I think that the reason for the variety of experiences in my life so far is just trying to find my place in the world and find different ways that I can serve others. I feel as though it is the least I can do to leave my little corner of the world in better shape than when I found it.”