Teens Learn About Education, Job Prospects in Health Care
Junior high school students from Springdale race each other in a tape-tearing contest, from top, practice taping ankles and use a tool to remove the tape safely.
The 14 teenage girls clad in bright red scrubs broke up into pairs, one girl taping the other's ankle or wrist. They giggled a bit as they worked, but they were intent on learning the proper technique that would protect an athlete from further injury.
In a classroom on the University of Arkansas campus June 15, the junior high school students finished a week of learning about health professions by getting an idea of what it would be like to work as an athletic trainer.
The Hispanic girls, who will enter ninth grade this fall in the Springdale School District, took part in a program sponsored by the Area Health Education Center-Northwest in Fayetteville. Community Health Applied in Medical Public Service, or CHAMPS, allowed them to visit medical facilities and institutions of higher learning in Washington and Benton counties.
The program's goal was to encourage minority students to pursue an education, and later a career, in the health professions, explained Mary Ann Shope and Nellie Cordova. Shope directs advancement and public relations, and Cordova coordinates multicultural programs for the center, which is an outreach program of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
A stop at the Fayetteville campus concluded the activities for the week, except for a graduation ceremony that night, and the girls listened attentively to Jeff Bonacci before viewing a short video about the job of athletic training.
Bonacci teaches classes and coordinates the athletic training education program in the College of Education and Health Professions at the university. His visit with the girls was arranged by the college's new Professional Development Academy. Its mission is to provide professional development for teachers, health care professionals and businesses throughout the state of Arkansas.
Bonacci emphasized the importance of studying math and science as well as exhibiting compassion when working in health care professions.
"You have to give a darn about somebody when their well-being is not good," he said.
He explained different types of tape used when an athlete needs to have an ankle or wrist held stable and demonstrated techniques to provide maximum protection for a vulnerable limb or muscle.
UA athletic training graduates currently work for the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints in the National Football League, Bonacci said, but he also pointed out that athletic trainers don't just work in high school, college and professional sports. He told the girls they could get jobs in areas they may not have thought about before, including the military, stock car racing and rodeo.
Criteria for the CHAMPS program include overall grade-point average, grades in math and science courses and a recommendation from a teacher or counselor. Helping with the program were one Marshallese assistant and two Hispanic assistants, including Diana Salas, a recent graduate of the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing.
Also during the week, the students learned about a nurse's responsibilities during a doctor's visit, including taking a patient's medical and family history along with weight and vital signs; learned how to scrub up for assisting in surgical procedures, donned gown and gloves and learned about surgical instruments during a visit to Northwest Arkansas Technical Institute in Springdale; took a CPR class at Central Emergency Medical Services in Fayetteville; learned about optometry at Brandon Eye Clinic in Springdale; learned from a nurse the parts of a stethoscope and how to use it; visited health laboratories at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville; learned about bone structure while an orthopedic surgeon puts casts on them; visited a dentist at the Northwest Arkansas Pediatric Dental Center in Springdale; learned from a pharmacist about the importance of medicines; learned about X-ray technology from a member of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences faculty; and learned from a medical librarian how to use online sources to help them determine whether they want to pursue a career in the health professions.
Girls in the group are considering a range of health careers, Cordova explained, including nursing, surgery technician, dentist and pediatrician.
"This has really opened their eyes to the fact that so many professions are available," she said. "They were also excited to learn that they can start taking some college courses now. These are all top students, and they are all willing to go to school as much as necessary."
Cordova said the girls come from families in which no one has attended college and not many people work in health care professions. Money presents the main obstacle for higher education among the immigrant families, she said. When she talks with the parents about the program, she makes sure they know that scholarships are available and shows the parents how to find them.
"Last year, I had a mother who thanked me for the program and said her son enjoyed it and learned a lot, but then she said she didn't see how he could go to college," Cordova said. "I told her, ‘Don't say that he can't go because there are ways.'"
Heidi Stambuck, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-3138, email@example.com