Growing up in Cleveland, OH, Mary Halm benefited from parent-led school choice during her early years at Old Brooklyn Community School. But when it came to highschool she was encouraged to explore options based on her interests and learning style. She knew, even then, that all of her friends didn’t have the same options. One close friend’s school choices were based strictly on geography, needing to choose between schools within walking distance. 

Perhaps that was the beginning of Halm’s curiosity about the crossroads between privilege and opportunity when it came to educational access. Now a graduate of the University of Rochester with a BA in Health, Behavior, and Society, Halm is a Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow at Cleveland Transformation Alliance. During her one-year fellowship, Halm will focus her efforts on working with past and future family survey results to ensure that Cleveland Transformation Alliance services and programs align with the needs and concerns most important to Cleveland families. 

As a public health advocate, one of the most important concerns for Halm is the correlation between education and health outcomes. “The quality of our education impacts us so much further and deeper than we would expect it to,” says Halm. From financial literacy, employment options, reading level, nutrition, social emotional health, social skills, and even physical fitness — so many of the markers that put students on the path to a healthy life begin with quality education. 


According to Halm “to a certain extent, there is a correlation between health and education. The better education and the higher level of education we receive, generally the better our health is or more importantly, our access to healthcare improves, which directly impacts our health. So how do we make sure that children have access and educational choices? When we can provide our community with quality education, it’s a domino effect for better opportunity for lifelong health.” 

In her role at the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, Halm believes her listening skills will be put to good work — and executive Meghann Marnecheck is eager to incorporate Halm’s public health experience into the organization’s approach to quality education for every child.

“I’m thrilled to have Mary’s perspective and her background will bring a lot to our work. I’m excited to have someone who’s really going to think about education as a social determinant of health and look at our work through that filter,” says Marnecheck.  

To learn more about our 2020 parent survey results, which will be an initial area of focus for Halm’s work, you can click here: Family Listening Campaign Findings.