Children learn about careers in health care

Whitney Ising, a teacher with the NorthWest Area Health Education Center’s “HealthWise” summer academic enrichment program, taught Rachel Cooper about unit conversions as part of a math lesson last Thursday during the Catholic Enrichment Center’s Camp Africa Inspire. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

By JESSICA ABLE
Record Staff Writer

Thanks to a partnership between the Catholic Enrichment Center and the NorthWest Area Health Education Center, students involved in this summer’s Camp Africa Inspire will get to learn more about careers in the health care field.

For more than 20 years the NorthWest Area Health Education Center (AHEC) has provided programming for students who are interested in health careers, said Dedra DeBerry, a health education coordinator with AHEC.

This summer’s academic enrichment program is titled “HealthWise,” and focuses on recruiting and retaining health care professionals in underserved or underrepresented areas.

“The goal is to inspire and encourage students to succeed in reaching their dreams of becoming a health care professional,” DeBerry said in a recent interview.

Last year, AHEC provided some supplemental programming to the middle and high school students enrolled at the CEC’s Camp Africa Inspire, a summer camp that provides cultural and academic enrichment opportunities. This year the two programs collaborated to expand the program to allow the middle and high school aged students attending Camp Africa Inspire to also take part in the HealthWise program.

Of the 43 students enrolled in HealthWise, about nine are students from Camp Africa Inspire, Kim Telesford-Mapp, director of the CEC, said.
“The primary goal of Camp Africa Inspire is to engage children academically so they are better prepared,” Telesford-Mapp said. “The HealthWise program really fits in with our mission because their goal is to create a pipeline for kids from school to a career.”

The HealthWise program meets Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and focuses heavily on the subjects of math, chemistry, biology and language arts.

“We have health care professionals come in and talk about various professions and cover different health issues,” DeBerry said. “We also go on field trips to colleges, universities, health care practices and science centers.”

Telesford-Mapp expressed delight in the program’s rich academic offerings.

“These kids are at a critical age where many are starting to think about what they want to do career wise,” she said. “The strong educational component is critical. If they are going to compete in today’s world their science and math skills need to be top notch.

“They aren’t just studying ‘science’ but really delving into chemistry and biology. They are getting real hands-on experience,” Telesford-Mapp added.

The HealthWise program is affiliated with the University of Louisville’s Health Science Center and receives a number of state and federal grants. The program mainly operates in areas that are medically underserved, DeBerry said.

To participate in the program, students either need to reside in one of these underserved areas or be an underrepresented minority in the health care field. Students also need the recommendation from a teacher at their school.

DeBerry said students involved in the program in recent years have gone on to become physicians, nurses and social workers among others.

“More than anything I hope they get a joy from learning. I hope they get an excitement of finding out something new. Through this program I hope they are able to go on to excel and blossom,” DeBerry said.

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