Gear Up for Public Health

By Rachel Quick and Tammy Albers, Office of Student Services, SPHIS

Summer is a busy time on campus for SPHIS. This past July, we had the opportunity to meet with 32 GEAR UP high school students from several counties throughout Kentucky.  Organized by the HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion, GEAR UP is a chance for HSC schools to spend time with students and expose them to health-related undergraduate opportunities at UofL.

“One of the primary goals is to encourage and help students seek their path to college and career readiness,” shared Melissa Young, a high school college and career advisor for GEAR UP.  “The programs for the summer are to introduce students— who are primarily first generation— to the college experience, majors, and opportunities for their future.”

SPHIS was the first of the four HSC Schools to spend time with GEAR UP students. The SPHIS Office of Student services coordinated three interactive days during the week of July 10th that focused on helping students to understand and embrace public health.

Gear Up Day 1 Tower ChallengeDay One began with students competing in a Marshmallow Challenge that had teams building towers with a few select items. This activity motivated students to use creativity, think critically, and collaborate before they transitioned into a “What is Public Health?” presentation by postdoctoral associate, Dr. David Johnson. Students finished the day with a bus tour of Louisville led by Russ Barnett, director of the KY Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development. 

On Day Two, students worked together on the case study related to Zika Virus and Olympic travel for American athletes. Students were asked to think like public health professionals and make recommendations for the event. Two current SPHIS undergraduate students helped guide the high schoolers through some of the tools for learning emphasized within UofL’s undergraduate program.  

“Public health has the opportunity to show students real world examples and solutions to major health problems,” said SPHIS undergraduate, Katharine Counts. 

Later that day the group visited school’s Gray Street Farmers Market (GSFM) and met with program coordinator, Priscillia White, MPH, who introduced students to the concepts of food insecurity and food deserts. Students then showcased their culinary abilities in a Cooking Challenge. In teams, they worked together to follow a recipe and prepare a dish that highlights fresh produce. Prizes were awarded based on taste, presentation and teamwork. 

Gear Up Day 3 Gear Up PuzzleDay Three began with a team activity based on the Amazing Race television show. Students had to get through roadblocks to receive clues that took them around Belknap Campus where they met public health partners. At the finish line, they collaborated to complete a floor puzzle re-emphasizing the collaborative efforts of public health.  GEAR Up students wrapped up their time with SPHIS by volunteering at the local Dare to Care food bank.

Experiential learning leads to better understanding of careers, majors and life.  Bradley Prather, a GEAR UP participant, said the experience increased his knowledge of how public health helps people to live longer and prosper day to day. 

“I know I want to become a doctor or nurse, and they both help people in life situations. Both are very important in public health, but they are not the only ones—there are many key players,” Prather said. 

This was a key takeaway message : public health is a team effort and cannot be attributed to a single workforce. Students left the three-day event informed about public health, and the many opportunities available within the field. 

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