Missouri Foundation for Health Awards Grant to Southeast

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 27, 2010 – The Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) has awarded Southeast Missouri State University a $150,000 grant to establish a program to educate underserved elementary school students in the region about heath care careers and to assist their counselors in guiding them into these fields.

The grant is titled “Southeast Missouri Health C.A.R.E.” (Career Aptitude, Realities and Exploration).

The University will use the grant funds to offer intensive, hands-on experiential learning for  second through seventh graders in the fall, a follow-up experience for fourth through sixth graders in the summer and ongoing support and tools for their school counselors throughout the year. The program, which will be free to participants, is designed to fill in gaps in the educational experiences offered to these youth.

The grant will pave the way for a fall Science Night in October for second through seventh graders that will provide an opportunity for both parents and students from this region to participate in healthcare delivery sciences. Students participating in the Science Night will learn about the human body, germs and healthy choices.

The funds also will be used for a five-day summer camp in summer 2011 for youth in grades 4-6 that will provide students with hands-on experiments, exploration and an introduction to the sciences of health care provision. Students will learn about nutrition, hygiene, and sickness and disease prevention.

The program also will provide school career counselors with guidance resources, tools and specific student programming, such as science experiments, demonstrations, and questions and answers with health professionals to be delivered to students at rural sites.

Collaborating partners on the grant-funded project are Southeast Missouri Hospital, Marquand Elementary, Meadow Heights Elementary, Delta Elementary, Scott County Central Elementary, Warren E. Hearnes Elementary and A.J. Martin Elementary.

“Southeast has a strong tradition of developing and implementing youth programs that energize students and plant early seeds of career exploration,” said Christy Mershon, project director and assistant director of Extended and Continuing Education. “This is an exciting outreach to younger students, which serves as a nice compliment to the university’s excellent nursing education programs.”

Mershon says youth in the region currently have access to a single-day science camp, but there are no multi-day intensive programs offering an introduction to the sciences behind health care delivery. She says current summer camps also offer no follow-up services and support in the schools to reinforce and build on the summer programs.

“The funds will underwrite unique summer camp and fall Science Night activities focused on the sciences of health care provision,” she said. “Given the rapid expansion and evolution of health care fields, we will also provide partner school guidance counselors with very detailed career information and pre-college educational requirements for a wide range of health care careers.”

The program is designed to encourage underserved students, those generally placed on a vocational track early in their academic career, with an opportunity to alter the perspective of their potential and expand their future occupational options by exciting them about potential health care careers.

Preliminary data suggests that more than 720 students, 600 parents and six career counselors will have access to and benefit from Southeast’s program.

The program will also collect and evaluate data concerning the project’s impact on students and their parents to help with the creation of future programs to promote student interest.

Students attending both the fall Science Night and the summer camp will be surveyed before and after the programs to assess their attitudes about science, their understanding of the nature and types of health care careers, and their attitude about the value or attractiveness of health care careers. Counselors will also be asked to provide feedback about students’ responses to the program.

“This was the first grant competition under a vital, well-crafted initiative of the Missouri Foundation for Health to strengthen Missouri’s health care workforce,” said Teresa Wilke, director of grant development at Southeast. “MFH has made considerable investments in southeast Missouri and across the state, and we feel fortunate to be chosen to partner with them in this endeavor.”

According to Wilke, the overall MFH health care workforce initiative includes a variety of strategies, from promoting health care career exploration at the initial spark of interest to nursing education completion.

Established in 2000, the MFH is the largest nongovernment funder of community health activities in Missouri and is dedicated to improving the health of unserved and underserved residents in 84 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis.

For more information about the Missouri Foundation for Health’s Workforce Initiative, visit  http://www.mffh.org/content/440/health-care-workforce-development.aspx.