Biomedical Students Learning and Filling a Need

North Students Making a Difference
Posted on 03/19/2018
Image of North Biomedical Students(courtesy Theresa Cottom, Beacon Journal)

On a recent Wednesday at North High School, dozens of students put down their lunches and crowded around a table in the cafeteria.

Each one emerged with gently used school supplies of their choosing that were refurbished by a group of students and handed out for free.

“I know some students don’t have supplies and don’t have the money to get [them],” said Shylah Meadows, a senior biomedical student who helped pass out supplies. “It really helps them out.”

From revamping school supplies to tackling the opioid epidemic, dozens of biomedical science students at North High School are learning just what it means to work in health care while helping others in the process.

For the past three years, Kelly Dine, the biomedical science program instructor at North, has encouraged her students to participate in the Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) program by developing community service projects. HPAC is sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) and “empowers youth to identify health concerns and invent community health programs to address them,” according to its website.

“When you enter a career in health care, it’s no longer about you,” Dine said. “You’re always [going to] be taking care of other people and advocating for them first.”

This year, dozens of students have worked together to create seven projects — the most participation Dine has had so far.

The increased participation comes as North finds its footing as the first Akron Public Schools high school to take on the College and Career Academy model.

The model sets up different academies in each school, which are broken down further into pathways on which students can focus their education. North has two academies: the Akron Children’s Hospital Academy of Health and Human Services and the Academy of Global Technology and Business.

Start of journey
Janice Weaver, North’s academy coach, said the school’s principal wanted to “treat this year as a marathon and not a sprint.”

“Really, it’s the beginning of a long journey,” Weaver said.

As kids transition into the new model of learning, the academy model has “enhanced” the community service projects, Weaver said.

“Now that we have more students within each pathway, there are more opportunities to look at pathways through different lenses,” Weaver said.

Dine said the projects also provide the type of learning encouraged by the academy model, pushing beyond academics and into more career and life skills, such as effective communication, problem-solving and responsibility.

Kids took a wide variety of approaches to their projects; participation was completely voluntary. One group visited military veterans at the Valor Home in Akron a couple of weeks ago to help address the struggles some veterans can face such as hunger and mental health conditions, while another group is providing free EpiPen administration training to members of the community. Another group focused more on the school population, putting together hygiene packs for refugees new to the school and the country.

The goal is to make the projects sustainable and improve them each year, Dine said, so some are continuations of projects started the first year in 2016.

Taking over project
Meadows and seniors Alison Cameron and Susmita Rai took over the recycled school supplies project from students who developed the idea two years ago and graduated last year.

The girls take advantage of the end-of-the-year locker cleanout by collecting school supplies that students would normally throw away.

Then, they refurbish those finds and other donated supplies by disinfecting them and making any necessary finishing touches — sharpening pencils, adding erasers, removing used paper from notebooks and covering names with blank labels.

Last year, the girls tried to improve their project by having students pick out their supplies instead of delivering them. The three students also created surveys for each person who took supplies so they could track data.

The improvements appear to have been effective. In less than two hours over two days last week, the girls handed out supplies to about 200 students.

Their project earned them an environmental award last year at NEOMED Scholars’ Day, which is a chance for all HPAC students to share their projects with a poster session and oral presentations from the academic year.

Many biomedical students at North who create projects are also members of SkillsUSA, a nationwide career and technical organization for students enrolled in career training programs, and will participate in its state competition next month as well.

Beyond competitions, though, the projects are meant to create a real impact in their target communities. Students defined “community” differently in their projects, as some addressed issues in the region, while others chose to help the population within their school walls.

“This is great … it makes our lives easier,” said Samia Shahwali, a junior at North, after she received a refurbished backpack. “Now we don’t have to bother our families, and sometimes for students who don’t have the money, it’s easier for them, too.”

Image of North Biomedical Students
Image of North Biomedical Students  Image of North Biomedical Students

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