Faculty member, alumna honored for making a positive difference in the community
A UW-La Crosse part-time faculty member, alumna and community health educator is among the La Crosse community’s Rising Stars.
Kayleigh Day, a community health educator for Monroe County Health Department and part-time instructor in UWL’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department, was on the list of 24 people younger than 40 honored for making a positive difference in the 7 Rivers Region.
Day, ’11 & ’16, earned a Master of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree in community health education and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from UWL. Today her career combines all of her degrees as she works to address social inequalities she studied as a student as they relate to public health.
This fall Day is teaching WGS 100 (Gender, Race, and Class in American Institutions). She says teaching dovetails perfectly with her career in public health.
“So many of the topics we’re talking about this semester are conversations happening in public health as well,” she says. “Teaching this semester reminded me how passionately I feel about these topics, just how huge of an impact policy and systems of oppression play in health, and how supported I felt during my time as a WGSS major.”
Day was a first-generation college student who found strong support at UWL as she navigated the college experience. Now she is supporting others every day as a community health educator. In this role Day leads efforts to address some of Monroe County’s biggest health issues in areas such as mental health, alcohol and other drug abuse and nutrition. She develops community health projects through partnerships and collaborations, advocates for health issues in the county, works with policymakers, and gains grant funding to support projects.
While it may be obvious how Day uses her health degrees, she says her women’s, gender, and sexuality studies degree gives her a wider view of public health issues.
“Social justice is a core principle of public health — the idea that everyone deserves to live in a healthy environment,” says Day. “Where I pull a lot from my women’s studies background is when we are looking at social inequalities, and you can see those reflected in health outcomes.”
Day also volunteers teaching yoga at Coulee Recovery Center. She has served as a Community Investment Volunteer with Great Rivers United Way every other year and has mentored undergraduate students through the UWL’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Mentoring Circles program.
Because of her multi-disciplinary education, Day says she is conditioned to think critically about public health, always asking what is at the root of a particular health issue and what role she can play for change.
“My educational background is invaluable,” she notes. “It gives me the ability to be constantly thinking about how social inequalities are impacting people’s lives and their health.”
And it’s helped her land a career where she knows she is making a difference.
“I love that my job is helping improve the environment in which people live,” she says.