Participant Story: Koehler Powell

It’s been great learning about Pittsburgh not only from a neighborhood perspective, but also learning what the everyday things look like.” – Koehler Powell 


Koehler Powell has a long history with Pittsburgh having grown up here. Koehler left Pittsburgh to study at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota where she received her degree in Biology.  While at Carleton, Koehler was able to study evolutionary ecology in Australia and New Zealand, perform molecular biology research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical School, and interview and counsel prospective students as one of Carleton’s Admissions Fellows.  Prior to joining PULSE, she worked as the HOPE Center Program Director with Carleton College’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement Office and was involved on her campus with many other forms of sexual violence advocacy. In her free time, Koehler enjoys film photography, cooking, and rock-climbing.  She is serving at Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank.

Sid Dash: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Koehler Powell: I have really enjoyed working with such a small group of women. Since there are only a few people working at the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank, it really feels like a community. Everyone does a little bit of everything, and everyone is cross-trained so we can do each other’s jobs. We all work together and everyone is very supportive. If coworkers know that I am sick or had a difficult day they kick me out even if I try to work through it. Human milk is also fascinating, but that may be the bio nerd in me.

Sid: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Koehler: I usually get to my service around 7 a.m. Once we have at least three people, we start processing breast milk from the night before. We mix breast milk deposits from 2-5 donors together into Erlenmeyer flasks, homogenize it, and then pour the milk into bottles which we then pasteurize. That process ends around 10 a.m. We go back up front and unlock the door and then I work on assorted projects. Right now, I am completing a literature review for differences in bioactive retention between Holder pasteurization and retort processing. At some point during the day, I give a donor a tour of the milk bank. I show her where all the milk is and log in her milk so we know what kind of milk we have. The job also involves labeling and putting together milk orders.

Sid: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Koehler: Even though I grew up in Pittsburgh, I never lived in the city itself. It’s been great learning about Pittsburgh not only from a neighborhood perspective, but also learning what the everyday things look like. For example, where to shop for groceries, who takes the bus to the Strip District in the morning, and what the city is like from a young adult perspective.

Sid: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Koehler: One night, I went dancing with my two roommates from PULSE Start (Heather and Maura). We went to a place that Maura knew, which had great dancing, but it was completely empty. We waited to see if it picked up, but it didn’t, so, we just spent 4 hours talking. At the end of night, there was a DJ playing music, but still no one was dancing. We wanted to dance at least for a bit, so we decided to go dance. We danced for 5 minutes, before stopping because everyone was staring at us.

Sid: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Koehler: I enjoy anything with garlic. Our house is obsessed with garlic. We even add it to recipes that don’t need garlic. So far, the best recipe has been Amanda’s Boy which is a flour dumpling that is put into a soup of pureed black beans. I was her sous chef when she was making it, so she taught me how much water to use and the correct shape to roll them into. We had fun cooking, eating, and making puns about it.

Story by PULSE Participant Siddhartha Dash.

Read more Participant Stories from Fellows about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

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