Service-learning co-op leads to meaningful full-time job for UC grad

Ryley Jones came to the University of Cincinnati to study nursing but discovered in her first year that she didn’t like the major.

“I was good at science, but I wasn’t super passionate about it. I was interested in health care and in helping people, but I was more interested in the communication aspect,” she says.

With nursing off the table, Ryley had to pivot quickly. Through an exploratory course, she discovered UC’s health promotion and education program, which focuses on using public education campaigns to promote healthy choices. Jones hadn’t known such a thing existed, but she says “it was exactly what I was looking for.”

portrait of Ryley Jones

Health promotion and education major Ryley Jones credits UC’s Service-Learning Co-op program with helping her land a professional job in her field upon graduation. Photo/provided

Jones knew that the program required a 400-hour internship during her senior year. Internships in this field are often unpaid. She wondered how she could juggle classes, a job at Starbucks and an internship at the same time.

Then she found out about UC’s Service-Learning Co-op program, which provides funding to nonprofits to pay interns. This meant she could trade her Starbucks job for one that aligned with her career goals instead of just earning money.

With a referral from UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services associate professor Amanda Lynch, Jones secured an internship with local health education organization PreventionFIRST. The position would be paid thanks to UC’s Service-Learning Co-op program, which is helping to make paid, major-related work experience available to every baccalaureate student as part of UC’s Next Lives Here strategic direction.

I would encourage every student to take advantage of the Service-Learning Co-op program if they can.

Ryley Jones, UC student

In addition, during her internship Jones took a reflection course that “solidified everything for me. The most helpful part of the course was taking the interest, strengths and personality tests. It helped me know that I had made the right decision and that this is where I fit in.”

With that confidence, Jones started a full-time job as a program coordinator with PreventionFIRST last month, just a week after she graduated.

Grateful for how UC helped her find — and fund — her path toward a fulfilling career, Jones says, “I would encourage every student to take advantage of the Service-Learning Co-op program if they can.”

Featured image at top: Ryley Jones, center, with PreventionFIRST colleagues Julia Kyser, left, and Marisa Detore at the organization’s 25th annual awards luncheon and fundraiser in April 2022. Photo/Provided.