This summer, 75 students from the Wyandanch, Amityville, Brentwood, and William Floyd school districts arrived at 's Health Sciences Center for a different kind of educational experience – one that pays more than just educational dividends.
Through a federal grant that provides each student with a $1,200 stipend for the summer, they'll spend six weeks learning about allied health professions such as physical therapy, respiratory therapy, anesthesiology, medical dosimetry, occupational therapy, and more. They'll also receive academic support in English, science, math and SAT prep with University professionals.
Eric Flynn, education specialist and co-chair of the Health Career Opportunities Program, which falls under the School of Health Technology and Management, described it as an interest-based program designed to expose students to allied health professions they may never have even known existed.
"A lot of students know about doctors and nurses for instance. ... They watch 'House' or 'Grey's Anatomy,' they see all these people rushing back and forth. They're interested, but they think you need to be a doctor or nurse to [do] that," Flynn said. "But what about a polysomnography technologist? these are careers that students may never have known about but could be very interested in. ... It opens this doorway, this pathway."
That's exactly what Arthur Flowers, a 16-year-old student from Wyandanch, said he is getting out of the program.
"You see professions that are behind the scenes," said Flowers, who is now considering physical therapy as a career. "I knew there were doctors and nurses. In 'House,' you don't see all the anesthesiologists and the others. They go in depth here."
For Diana Joya, 17, of Brentwood, the academic support component of the program has given her the chance to see how math can be applied to medicine. "I learned that math is really important if you're going into the medical field," she said. "I'm learning about dosage, about how much to give a child versus an adult, and how important it is to calculate accurately."
Jackie Komnick, a 17-year-old attending William Floyd High School, said she's enjoying taking it all in, from the surgical simulations to the academic support.
"I am getting a lot of help with writing my college essay," she said. "I didn't realize how personal they have to be. I didn't know anything about it. I'm learning something new about college every day I'm here."
On Wednesday, a group of students got to interact with a dummy similar to the ones used in CPR classes; only this one had the capacity to breathe, and could be hooked up to monitors measuring his vital signs. Another person stood behind a glass panel giving "voice" to the dummy so the students could interact with it in a simulation of cardiac arrest. Other students attended presentations at Stony Brook University's Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center.
And getting the $1,200 stipend sure doesn't hurt, the students said.
"Come on, you're getting money to learn!" said Anny Gonzalez, 16, of Amityville. "I'm putting $1,000 away for college. You've got to save up."
Since its inception in 2009, the program, which starts in the seventh grade, has seen about 2,500 students from the Amityville, Wyandanch, William Floyd, and Brentwood school districts. In individual schools, the program also covers skills such as time management and taking notes, as well as financial aid and college admissions workshops. As rising seniors, they are exposed to more than a dozen of the allied health professions.
"These are professions that are under-represented in these communities," Flynn said. "We're hoping they go to college, and even more so we're hoping they choose these careers."