Nick Simeti ’18 appreciates the importance of good examples and is grateful for those who have inspired him. He takes seriously his responsibility to others. “I think the Plymouth State University Public Health program faculty are really great,” he says. “They have been my role models academically and professionally—they are the people I try to imitate, and, in my new position, I hope I can be a role model for youth.”
Simeti is a health educator with Communities for Alcohol and Drug-Free Youth (CADY), a regional nonprofit devoted to preventing and reducing youth substance misuse. He will be involved in many different programs involving direct work with youth, including community-based projects, after-school programs, and in-school educational workshops. From CADY’s base in Plymouth alongside the PSU campus, he will be going into area middle and high schools, primarily in Campton, Holderness, Plymouth, and Rumney.
“It’s important to spread awareness of the effects of drugs and alcohol on developing minds,” Simeti says. “Hopefully I’ll be making an impact.” CADY’s work around restorative justice, including bridging access to care for all types of healthcare needs, also appeals to Simeti. His new position represents a return of sorts as he first worked with CADY in 2019 as part of a senior capstone project in which he surveyed PSU students of legal age about binge drinking.
Simeti’s involvement in the field began in high school when he had the opportunity to assist Public Health Nutritionist Michelle Kleinman of the Rockland County (NY) Department of Health. “I assisted her with a lot of initiatives, including bringing access to care to disadvantaged communities,” he explains.
When he arrived at Plymouth State, Simeti initially majored in exercise physiology before making the switch to public health. “What I liked about PSU and its program was that a lot of our projects benefited the campus or the community, so it didn’t feel like I was just studying for a test,” he says. “I was doing meaningful work and what I was learning and applying was making a difference.”
Simeti earned multiple awards as a member of the PSU Wrestling Team, including Academic All-American, MVP, the Panther Award, and New England Wrestling Association honors. He was a two-year captain and is currently in his fourth season as assistant coach. Compact and burly, Simeti served as a frontline worker early in the pandemic as a contracted infectious disease care coordinator for the CDC Foundation. Accompanied by law enforcement, he personally delivered official letters that needed to be signed to members of the public who were required to quarantine but were refusing to do so.
Simeti’s PSU mentors include Professor Suzanne Gaulocher, who directs the University’s Center for Healthy Communities. As an undergraduate, Simeti partnered with Gaulocher on a Center research project that assessed student needs as the Healthy PSU program was rolled out to the entire student body. He conducted focus groups in first-year seminars, coded and analyzed data, and presented findings to the President’s Cabinet. He returned as a graduate teaching assistant in Gaulocher’s senior capstone course and, more recently, on collaborative projects with the regional Public Health Advisory Council during its Community Health Needs Assessment process.
The Advisory Council’s field study addressed the most pressing health needs in central New Hampshire, and Simeti employed epidemiology, social marketing, and environmental health skills. “It was a readiness for community needs assessment project,” he says. “I reached out to tons of community partners and interviewed stakeholders.”
“Because I’ve had the luck of working with Nick as an undergrad and as a graduate student, I have gotten to see his transformation firsthand,” says Gaulocher. “Nick is an outstanding student and professional with an extremely strong work ethic.”
Professor Barbara McCahan was Simeti’s academic advisor and instructor in his first years at PSU. “I was always impressed with his passion and compassion for the well-being of others,” she says. “He was always enthusiastically engaged in program development for Healthy PSU and was a spokesperson to the Cabinet for the proposal to become a smoke-free campus. He is a great example of a successful public health student.”
“My professors at Plymouth State have always been people I aspired to be like,” says Simeti, who connects his college experience with those of today’s students. He encourages first-year student athletes who aren’t sure where to focus their studies to consider public health. “It’s done wonders for me and it’s worth it,” he says. “I learned a lot of useful skills and a lot about the world, including health behavior change, and about Medicare, Medicaid, and other healthcare systems. That’s real life.”