In my last post, I wrote about an ongoing partnership between the Barnegat Schools and Barnabas Health, Community Medical Center. For more than two years we have enjoyed a unique partnership at a limited cost to the district.
It all started about three years ago when I was reading an article in Forbes magazine. It indicated that in the next ten years there would be job growth in certain industries. As you may have guessed, the first area of projected growth was technology. The second area of growth was in the medical sciences. I was curious about the med-sci piece so I began to gather some data.
We knew that there was a nearby high school who had a similar program so we decided to take a visit. Check out this link to see the academy programs offered in Neptune: https://www.neptuneschools.org/Page/1764
It was impressive to see what high school students were being exposed to. They had a lab set up in a classroom with very high tech equipment as well as the ability to work with some very credentialed medical professionals.
I wanted the same for our students in Barnegat. I began making phone calls to as many medical facilities as I could in our area. I received many “no” calls to my questions. Most times I couldn’t get in touch with people at the executive level who make important decisions. In addition, businesses were not necessarily seeing the return on investment for them.
Eventually I received a call from the Vice President of Prevention for Barnabas Health, Community Medical Center. She was actually calling regarding prevention. They were looking to work with a school district who was in need of supportive services for prevention and wellness. If you had the opportunity to read my last blog, you know that we were certainly in need of support in that area. While we were on the phone, in our very first conversation, I pitched my idea. My colleague thought is was worth bringing to the hospital board and even agreed to set up the meeting.
The time came for my team to present our idea to the hospital CEO, several Vice Presidents of different departments and even a head of surgery! I was nervous. What I thought was going to be a conversation ended with brainstorming. Both sides could see benefits and we were ready to start planning.
The program has been in effect for two years now and although we have made some changes, the benefits are tremendous for our students. Approximately once a month a cohort of high school students, selected through a criteria based process, travel to the hospital. The cost of the bus is funded by the school district. Our students participate in hands-on experiences led by medical professionals. Topics are planned and arranged collaboratively between a Med-Sci Collaborative advisor (who receives a stipend for his/her time and work) and hospital officials. Students have been exposed to everything from perioperative services, to x-ray technicians, to central sterilization. The volunteers from the hospital provide a brief lecture-style lesson, followed by a hands-on experience. They even provide dinner for our students. The only cost to the district is transporting students (about once per month) and an annual stipend for a teacher to coordinate the program with the hospital.
In the first year of the program, our students volunteered time at the hospital. The Vice President of the hospital has presented graduation certificates of completion and has done so both at the hospital but also at our Board of Education meeting in the spring. Students are now being accepted to colleges with a unique learning experience on their applications. Through this experience, some students have decided what field of medicine they would like to study or whether or not they are going to pursue medicine or another field all together.
In November, our students had the opportunity to meet David Diehl https://twitter.com/davediehl66?lang=en of the New York Giants who shared motivational words about grit, progress, and determination. Students reflected on his story about resilience and were inspired by his dedication and fortitude.
I am excited about the success of this program and am grateful for the opportunities this partnership has provided to our students. Hands-on learning can be exciting and rewarding. Deciding on a career path or being exposed to something you might love when in high school is truly a gift in itself.