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Health Sciences at Newark High

Health Sciences, Newark High School partner on dual-credit coursework, mentoring

The University of Delaware College of Health Sciences (CHS) is making a short trip for a long-term stay at Newark High School (NHS). The relationship becomes official next school year when the college will teach dual-credit classes and a host of undergraduates will mentor high school students.

In the fall, qualifying NHS students can take “Introduction to Health Sciences” with Kathleen Matt, dean of the College of Health Sciences. During the spring semester, Esther Biswas-Fiss, chairperson of Medical Laboratory Sciences, will teach “Introduction to Medical Laboratory Sciences.” The classes are integrated into the students’ regular schedule, and both courses count for high school and University credit.

“With the addition of the health sciences courses at Newark High School, the University of Delaware is making a commitment to enhancing opportunities for students within the local community,” said principal Aaron Selekman. “The field of health sciences is vast and generally unknown to high school students. These courses provide a much-needed opportunity to explore the field in a meaningful and engaging way.”

While the dual-credit offerings are exciting, the other program element is just as critical. Working with the nonprofit Connecting Generations, the college will pair UD undergraduate mentors with high school students who hold similar career interests. Throughout the school year, mentors and mentees will discuss topics like overcoming barriers, college success skills and career planning.

“At home, many teenagers get less than 20 minutes of undivided attention from an adult. Mentors make an enormous difference in a student’s life,” explained Tarra Miller, Connecting Generations mentor program coordinator.

“UD is professionalizing the value of established mentoring at the college level,” added Jane Maroney, a Connecting Generations board member. “We train every college mentor and provide ongoing support as they develop a unique, one-on-one relationship with their high school mentee.”

The college is also working with Employee Health and Wellbeing to recruit UD employees to become Connecting Generations mentors.

Newark also will create a UD office in the building, which CHS hopes to share with groups across the University.

Creating a pipeline

The partnership with Newark is a key piece in a bigger initiative — the College of Health Sciences Pipeline Program. With a focus on Delawareans and underrepresented students, the program exposes students to a breadth of health sciences career choices and aids in preparation for the academic rigor of higher education.

“We are committed to this program for the long-term. In many health professions, our state is experiencing significant shortages. In a critical industry like healthcare, that has big implications,” explained Matt. “If we are going to enhance healthcare delivery, we need to prepare and inspire ambitious, young Delawareans from diverse backgrounds on the path to higher education and health sciences careers.”

While the mentoring element is new, the college is in its second year of offering dual-credit courses in a high school setting. An inaugural, successful campaign wraps up later this month at St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington, with year two on deck. The college plans to teach classes at a third high school in the 2018-19 school year.

As the College of Health Sciences’ Dante LaPenta explains, this approach to engaging high school students is far from new.

“Right in our own field, Virginia Commonwealth University’s Health Sciences Academy has made a big impact on high school students in Richmond. We can do the same in Delaware,” LaPenta said. “The University can and should do more with local schools. The opportunities are bountiful and enhance the student experience.”

In addition to mentoring and coursework, the fledgling pipeline program includes several other health sciences pieces. The College of Health Sciences Summer Camp — an on-campus, college experience — pilots in August. Elementary and high school science teachers from across the state will bring their classes to observe the nursing simulation labs in McDowell Hall, tour the STAR Health Sciences Complex and take part in unique clinic or lab demonstrations. And the biggest initiative to date occurred during UD’s spring break when the college hosted more than 800 Delaware high school students for the HOSA State Leadership Conference, a statewide, health sciences competition. The weeklong event included workshops on everything from prosthetics to health disparities.  

“Our doors are open to the public,” added LaPenta. “We love hosting field trips and giving elementary and high school students the chance to see the health sciences in action.”

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