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Over this past weekend, I had the privilege of attending a field trip for my honors “Health Inequalities” political science course with Professor Dean Robinson to the UMass Center at Springfield, a satellite campus to UMass Amherst offering programs in nursing, education, business and more.

Like most college students, waking up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to go on a field trip really wasn’t my cup of tea. While I might’ve woken up that morning desiring nothing else but a few more hours of sleep, the field trip proved itself as a valuable learning experience.

Our class had the opportunity to meet leaders of the Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) group based in Springfield. As learned through my political science course, men of color have overall worse health outcomes and higher levels of stress than most other groups of people. Through a government grant and partnership with UMass, MOCHA tries to change this, offering the opportunity for men to participate in research regarding stress factors and their health. The program also provides classes in physical fitness, mental health and gender roles, and gives its members a free membership to the YMCA.

I was amazed by MOCHA’s sense of unity and desire to reach a common goal of bettering their health, not just on an individual scale, but as a team. With some of its members spending time incarcerated, MOCHA doesn’t just aim to better men’s health, but provides a positive support system for men to rely on after their time with the program.

Through attending the field trip with Professor Robinson, it became pertinent to me how big of an impact even a small program like MOCHA can make in a community. I woke up thinking that morning that the only place I’d want to be is asleep, but by making the most of my field trip experience I recognized not just the importance of MOCHA, but of community groups as a whole.

Growing up in a privileged community, I think it’d be kind of easy for me to take my access to community programs for granted. Whether it be sports teams, clubs and organizations, or some other community event, growing up I felt like I always had access to some sort of group culture beyond just my own. Taking the trip to Springfield made me realize not only how fortunate I am to have grown up with access to community programs, but also how important even one program can be to a community that desperately needs it. While bettering men’s health might be at the forefront of their goals, MOCHA does so much more for its members by allowing them to collectively form a community and achieve with a sense of togetherness.

And to think I wouldn’t have learned any of it without waking up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.

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