Sharla-Renee Hart ’09, M.A. ’14, sees health and well-being as assets shared by the community.

People vary as to how good—or perhaps how bad—they are at eating right and going to the gym, but most of us look at fitness and nutrition as personal goals or responsibilities. Sharla-Renee Hart ’09, M.A. ’14, sees health and well-being as assets shared by the community. It’s an outlook she learned as an undergrad visiting the Republic of Kenya and brought back to Hempstead, Long Island.

“It was in Kenya that the concept of sustainable development came alive for me,” Hart said. “I saw firsthand, in the faces of young children I encountered, the effects of hunger and poverty.”

Hart got the life-changing experience of traveling to East Africa while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International Studies at Adelphi. She joined the Adelphi chapter of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which helped her raise funds to travel to Kenya on a mission trip in 2007. There, she participated in projects that helped provide locals with employment while being mindful of resources.

After earning a master’s in community health promotion, Hart began to work full time in the Office of Student Financial Services, where she is now senior financial aid administrator, in charge of reviewing FAFSA forms. She also began volunteering with Hempstead Rebirth, a faith-based, not-for-profit community development program aimed at improving the quality of life for community members. Through Hempstead Rebirth, she began to take on an even more active role in event and program planning.

“I wrote a proposal to connect community health to food access and quality.” She said this was the beginning of the Food and Fitness Program, which came to fruition in 2012 with seminars, workshops, and training sessions led by experts in the field. Working with Cynthia Proscia, M.A. ’92, clinical assistant professor in the Ammon School’s Exercise Science, Health Studies, Physical Education and Sport Management. Together, they educated sixth-graders in Hempstead schools about proper nutrition.

Hart and Proscia made an excellent team, and they have continued to work together. Working with the Long Island food bank Island Harvest, they launched the School Garden Initiative, a multifaceted effort that unites schools, Island Harvest, educators and volunteers from Adelphi and neighboring communities to plant gardens in local elementary schools. The initiative has grown in the past six months, and Hart is now working to secure state and federal grants so they can expand the project.

Good connectivity and an active community are vital for neighborhoods to thrive, and she’s been providing the tools to bring sustainable improvement to the Long Island community of Hempstead.“I am passionate about seeing people and communities flourish, discover their uniqueness and leave an indelible mark on society,” Hart said.

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