10 years of sHaPe


Students received interactive experiences to learn about health care professions. COURTESY | VALERIE WOJCIECHOWSKI

Rachel Matuszewski, Staff Reporter

For many middle and high school students, the future is full of college and career decisions. But for others, higher education is not discussed.

sHaPe (Summer Health Activities and Professions Exploration) was put on in downtown Grand Rapids at the Cook DeVos Center for Health Sciences building, courtesy of the College of Health Professions and the Regional Math and Science Center. Co-directed by Kathy Agee and Ranell Brew, the program proved excellent in giving students an educational experience. 

“(We make a) great team because (Brew) works with the faculty in the College of Health Professions, and they are faculty who have been in the field and know these professions,” Agee said. “(The Regional Math and Science Center) works as an outreach for K-12 schools (and) brings in the expertise of working with the schools, knowing age appropriate activities, and how to coordinate and plan. We do a lot of big programs and organize things (such as) Science Olympiad.” 

For the 10th year, Grand Valley State University held the sHaPe camp July 15-18 and 22-25. 

“Our target population is students whose parents have not gone to college or heard that college message, and we get them on a college campus,” Agee said. “(It’s) a cool thing for them because it really demystifies it. They see faculty are nice and they can be successful in college. Telling kids, this is Grand Rapids, there are a lot of health professions available and more than just doctors and nurses.” 

This year, 40 eighth and ninth grade students were invited to experience careers in physical therapy, sonography, nursing, athletic training and more. The camp ran four days and split students into two groups. With two activities running before and after lunch, the groups switch after learning about the professions. GVSU welcomed students from Battle Creek Public School for the first time during the second week of camp. 

“An overarching theme of camp is focused on personal health and wellness, in discussing sleep, nutrition, physical activity as examples that are weaved into daily curriculum,” Brew said. “We offer 80 sessions focused on nearly all health-related careers we offer degrees in at GVSU. These sessions are led by faculty who teach in the program, assisted by current students in the program and are fun, interactive and exciting ways to learn about each profession. Whether it be practicing pulse and respiration with stethoscopes in physician assistant studies, to wheel chair basketball in recreation therapy, or analyzing specimens in medical laboratory sciences, the students enjoy the hands-on activities that give them a first-hand glimpse at a day in the life of these careers.” 

In May, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded GVSU a five-year $15.5 million grant to help Battle Creek students experience the camp through partnership with the university. The dream was now realized for Battle Creek students and more, as Agee and Brew have written over $200,000 in grants to local and national foundations and companies to help students attend camp for free. Agee spoke highly of the Battle Creek students’ character, as they were all excited and appreciative. 

Outside of the regularly scheduled activities, Grand Rapids students also took a field trip to Mercy Health Hospital and Battle Creek students returned home to visit the veterans administration. Students were also exposed to GVSU’s students, programs and equipment for those in health-related majors, and were also taught about financial aid opportunities. 

“We have students who come into camp wanting to be a professional football player leave after four days of camp saying they want to be an occupational therapist or a dosimetrist,” Brew said. “It sheds a positive light on our commitment to diversity and community partnerships. (It) allows middle school (and high school) students a look into college life and careers they might not have considered previously.”