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Helping high schoolers make career choices

Photos by Ashley Barnas and Doug Baker

Delawareans dive deep into the health sciences at inaugural summer camp

High school students from across the state spent the week on the University of Delaware campus at UD’s inaugural Health Sciences Summer Camp. The six-day, college immersion camp provided a deep exploration into health sciences majors and careers.

The camp was organized by UD’s Debbie Allen, Regina Wright, Alyssa Benjamin and Dante LaPenta, who set up sessions with departments and centers within the College of Health Sciences (CHS), as well as meetings with Career Services and Admissions. The students also visited Christiana Care to tour the hospital and for an in-person meet-and-greet with health professionals.

“My favorite experience this week were the lectures,” said Danny Morales Rivera of Woodbridge High School. “I plan to go into physical therapy or occupational therapy because I like to help people and want to be by a patient’s side to make them feel better.”

The campers also worked on a health sciences pathway project, which they presented at the end of the week to their families, UD faculty and staff, and CHS partners. After the presentations, the camp concluded with a mini graduation ceremony. Speakers included CHS Dean Kathleen Matt and Gregory Hicks, chairperson of the Department of Physical Therapy, who shared a moving account of his personal journey into the field. Campers were then surprised with individual lab coats, each freshly adorned with a UD insignia, which drew a lot of smiles from the audience.

The final remarks came from Allen. As the college’s academic program manager, she is extremely enthusiastic about helping students find a field they are passionate for.

“Every idea we had, every meeting we held, every decision we made, every activity we planned was for you,” Allen told the audience, “so that your pathway to a better life and a better future would be enriched and enlightened by what you learned here this week. So that you would envision who and what you can become, how your life and life’s work can have purpose and meaning here and around the world. All this was for you.”

The majority of the students were underrepresented minority, low-income or (soon-to-be) first generation college students.

“Increasing diversity among health professionals improves access to healthcare for everyone,” said Benjamin, special projects coordinator in CHS. “It was a pleasure to watch them interact not just with the presenters but also with each other. The group really had good chemistry almost immediately.”

The day-to-day camp activities were led by UD graduates Stacy Burwell, Mariam Dukuray and Rick Henry. CHS undergraduates Nyle Smith, Argavan Ansari and Stephen McLaren also spent the week with the campers.

Once school is back in session, the college will pair each of the 30 campers with an undergraduate student mentor. Throughout the 2017-18 academic year, these Blue Hens will help the high schoolers with topics like preparing for college, career planning and overcoming barriers.

“The relationship can’t just end because camp is over. We want to stay in touch and help these students achieve their goals,” explained LaPenta, communications specialist for the college. “If we’re truly going to address the healthcare workforce shortages in the state, we need top Delaware high school students to go to UD, get undergraduate and graduate degrees, and become involved with research.  Think about the number of baby boomers who are retiring in the health professions. We need talented young people ready for the healthcare workforce. They’re our future health sciences leaders.”

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