Laura Niksch (formerly Laura Jeanes) is a Registered Dietitian currently working with the Head Start Program at Neighborhood House Associations their Nutrition Coordinator. Originally from Texas, Laura moved to California just over four years ago. She completed her undergraduate degree (BS in Dietetics) at the University of Maryland, College Park. Afterward, Laura completed a combined master program (MS in Nutrition) and dietetic internship with Texas A&M University, College Station. She has worked with the EFNEP program as a Nutrition Educator in Maryland, Child Nutrition and Senior Meals Programs in Texas, served on the Dallas Area Coalition to Prevent Childhood Obesity, and currently holds a co-chair position for San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative’s Early Childhood Domain. Recently, Laura presented on Health Literacy to Head Start counterparts across the state at the California Head Start Association’s 2017 Health Institute Conference and to Head Start staff and parents at the National Head Start Association’s 2017 Parent and Family Engagement Conference. Laura has a strong passion to treat and prevent childhood obesity and help families in her community lead healthy and happy lives.
When did you know that you wanted to work in this career field?
During my freshman year pursuing my undergraduate degree, I took an introduction to nutrition course. I fell in love with the material and couldn’t stop reading my entire textbook. Shortly afterward, I switched majors from journalism to nutrition. I believe the seed was planted years before when I worked as a nanny for a Registered Dietitian (RD)’s kids throughout high school. She has served as my mentor ever since I chose to become a RD.
How did you become involved in the COI?
Through my current position as Head Start Nutrition Coordinator for NHA, I became connected with COI. With my history working with a similar coalition in Dallas, TX, I was excited to find a local initiative that was so strategic in efforts to prevent childhood obesity. The domain approach works from different but interconnected angles, leading to a stronger collective impact. My work with Head Start naturally gravitated me to the Early Childhood Domain.
Why do you stay involved with the COI?
One projection my mentor shared with me resonated deeply: if strong efforts are not made to change the course of the obesity epidemic in our country, then the current young generation could be the first to not outlive their parent’s life expectancy. This fact motivates me to work with children and families to prevent childhood obesity. The COI has made and continues to make significant impacts in reducing childhood obesity for our community.
What do you love about of your job?
I love the Head Start Program. The first five years of life are crucial for a child’s development. The sooner we provide support and nurturing development for young children, the better prepared they will be for kindergarten and beyond. Head Start’s focus on comprehensive services, like nutrition, in addition to early childhood education, is unique for preschool programs and very effective. Working closely with at-risk families, connecting with community partners, and working with a trans-disciplinary content team at NHA, I can use my knowledge and abilities to their highest level while growing my professional skills.
What are three words that describe you?
Visionary, determined, and energetic.
What is your favorite place in San Diego?
Balboa Park, whether I’m visiting museums or walking the park to take in the peaceful and beautiful atmosphere, I am always able to find something new to appreciate and enjoy. It reminds me of my time in D.C. visiting the Smithsonian Museums. San Diego’s rich history and diverse cultures are evident in every part of the park.
What do you do for fun?
My friends and I call it ‘urban hiking’ where we walk the neighborhoods and parks around San Diego. My father is an architect and always used that knowledge to share interesting aspects of a city’s homes and buildings wherever we would visit. I think of him as I walk the streets of historic homes and beautiful landscapes and enjoy sharing them with him and my mother when they visit.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
It happens any time I see a Head Start family I have been counseling make strides to a healthier life. Each new success becomes my proudest accomplishment, even though it is truly theirs and I share a small part.
What are your three greatest passions?
Nutrition, self-expression through the arts (guitar, drawing, and dancing), and nurturing friendships.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I play guitar and sing. I have been playing guitar and composing songs since I was 12. Also, I served on a newspaper staff from high school through early college as a writer, editor, and layout designer.