“It’s really cool that we’re all here for the same mission and we’re constantly supporting each other. When we have a bad day we’re there to support each other and on good days we hype each other up. We push one another by holding each other accountable for being a participant in this community.”
Sophie Costan, born in Clarion, Pennsylvania, completed her undergraduate degrees in Cell and Molecular Biology and Psychology at Chatham University. During her time at Chatham, she engaged in research projects with the Penn State College of Medicine as a SURIP Intern. She also served as an intern with the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center, helping to implement a medical scribe program for pre-health students. In addition, Sophie has shadowed healthcare professionals in Zargoza, Spain, and served as a PASSAGES Counseling Center advocate to provide support to sexual assault victims. In her free time, Sophie enjoys reading, knitting, and exploring her genealogy. Sophie is a part of the East End cohort and serves at Mid-Atlantic Mother’s Milk Bank. Sophie was interviewed by Holly Mangan.
Holly: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?
Sophie: PULSE has inspired me to really get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When we talk about issues in seminar or elsewhere, I’m not always super knowledgeable about the topics, and they’re uncomfortable. But I’ve learned to sit with that and be introspective about why I might be uncomfortable with them. I’ve also learned to speak up more when something is bothering me or isn’t right. I feel more comfortable addressing concerns with people than I used to. PULSE has made me consider how to use my privilege and the cards I’ve been dealt for good, and to help somebody else who doesn’t have that — and being mindful to do that in a thoughtful way.
Holly: What have you enjoyed most about living in community? How have you and your housemates pushed/encouraged one another?
Sophie: Inside jokes and joking around. I’ve never had that a lot with previous friend groups. It’s really cool that we’re all here for the same mission and we’re constantly supporting each other. When we have a bad day we’re there to support each other and on good days we hype each other up. We push one another by holding each other accountable for being a participant in this community. We push each other to be aware of social issues we talk about in seminar and how that translates into our household setting; it never ends at seminar. It’s an open space of learning and casual education. We don’t lecture each other, but we build it into conversations.
Holly: What have you enjoyed most about your nonprofit partnership?
Sophie: I really enjoy the fact that everything we do is tangible and directly fulfilling. In the past, I’ve done volunteer work where I don’t really see the outcome. At the milk bank, I see the milk that we ship out to sick babies. We get to meet donor mothers and babies and we get to see how our donations are helping them. It’s very heartwarming and it’s just nice to see that in person. I also really enjoy all of the new stuff I’m able to learn through this placement. Since I’m planning on going to med school and I’m interested in women’s health, a lot of the procedures and techniques I’m doing every day are relevant to the medical field in some way. It’s interesting to me personally.
Holly: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?
Sophie: All the curries.
Holly: What’s a typical day at your nonprofit?
Sophie: I get scrubbed up, put on lab coat, shoe covers, gloves, hairnet, and face mask. We pull out donor milk samples from the fridge, pour them into flasks and pitchers, mix all the samples to homogenize them, pour them into different-sized bottles, pasteurize them for 1.5 hours to make sure bad bacteria is killed off but keeping the good immunological components in there. Then we do nutritional analysis for fat/carb/protein content, then label them with barcodes and nutritional labels. Then a big part is boxing and shipping them out to different hospitals. Once or twice a week we do drug testing on samples for opioids, nicotine, THC. That’s a day in the life at the milk bank!
Holly: What have you been able to contribute to your nonprofit so far?
Sophie: I’ve been able to contribute some of the scientific background I have in the lab setting. When we have questions about drug testing or other procedures, I’ve been able to bring some biological knowledge I have to the table to clarify things and improve them with the background I have. I’ve also been doing social media and photography stuff, like pictures for a staff member’s blog post and my own blog post to help educate people about what milk banking is all about.
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