Lakers mentor students interested in health careers

Allison Ribick

Grand Valley State University and Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine has collaborated with Grand Rapids Public Schools in order to offer a mentoring program for high school students interested in the health-related careers.

The eight-week pipeline program started earlier this year and involves high school students in 11th and 12th grade meeting with their college mentors a few hours each week.

The high school students will have the opportunity to ask their mentors questions about future college decisions, or even about high school classes they may choose to take, and learn about a wide array of health careers through guest speakers, field trips and interactive learning like visits to blood pressure clinics and practicing suturing.

Faculty and staff from the Kirkhof College of Nursing and College of Health Professions are among the speakers who will present during the program.

“(The high school students) have access to a health care mentor – someone who has gone through it and can relate on different levels to what they’re going through and what they may be going through in the future,” said Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health at GVSU.

The program is hosted at the Secchia Center of MSU’s College of Human Medicine.

Visits are scheduled to places like the Van Andel Institute, Downtown Market, Ferris State Pharmacy School, the Cook DeVos Center and the Simulation Center of the Secchia Center.

The mentors will have more exposure to medical school and what being in the medical field is like, Nagelkerk said. Having the program at the Secchia Center allows GVSU and MSU students to interact with faculty.

“For the Grand Valley State University pre-med students, I think they have the benefit of actually providing a mentor service and learning about the needs of the 11th and 12th grade students,” Nagelkerk said. “They can share their knowledge, which strengthens what you know as you talk about different things.”

Allison Swets is among the 11 GVSU mentors in the program. Swets earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from GVSU and plans to attend MSU’s College of Human Medicine.

“It’s been wonderful to interact with the students and answer questions,” Swets said. “Particularly, my mentee asks, ‘What does it take to become a nurse?’ I was able to explain to her the requirements and what it looks like, what it takes to get there and really just open up her options.”

The lack of representation among minority students in health care careers is a concern, and this program also helps students be exposed to options in health care careers and increases their participation, Swets said.

“I don’t know that this (program) has been done before, so I think it’s just a thinking out of the box type program that needs to be promoted,” Swets said.

Next year, those involved hope to expand the program based on the needs of Grand Rapids Public Schools. The program is currently involved with Innovation Central High School and Academy of Health Sciences and Technology.

GVSU offers other programs that involve teaching students about healthcare careers.

The sHaPe camp is for 7th and 8th grade students to participate in a free week-long summer camp at the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. The camp allows students to explore various careers, participate in hands on activities and learn about their personal wellness. The camp gives preferential admission to students attending Grand Rapids Public Schools.

GVSU also coordinates a Health Career Exploration event for Girl Scouts ages seven to 15 years old.

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