Brooklyn, New York (PressExposure) July 31, 2013 -- Despite budget cutbacks, rise in youth unemployment and the nation's falling standing in science education, 77 Brooklyn teens at the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, are exploring health science careers, building skill through service learning, and assisting with clinical research at SUNY Downstate, while taking classes to help them excel during the school year and prepare for college.
They are also getting paid. Seventeen participants receive stipends of $250 in the four-week internship funded by the NIH through the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC), a joint venture of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, and the Brooklyn Borough President's Office, Sixty other students receive either stipends of $750 or $1500 respectively from the two year-round programs: Health Career Opportunities Program (HCOP), offered in partnership with SUNY Downstate's Office of Minority Affairs, or the Clinical Research Experiences for High School Students, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Collaborating with community members, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health designs, incubates, and replicates neighborhood-based interventions that address health conditions disproportionately affecting communities of color. The Institute's Health Science Academy (HSA) is a three-year, afterschool health science enrichment program for under-served minorities historically under-represented in the sciences and higher education. This program is housed at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn's only academic medical center.
All three programs are free to participants and adhere to the After-School Alliance's recommendation for fun, hands-on activities that connect to both the real world and the school year. NIH-funded Brooklyn Health Disparities Summer Program interns are trained to perform research projects such as surveying neighborhood interest in a local food coop, testing the viability of Facebook for preventive health messages, and assessing the accessibility of neighborhood intersections for people with sensory or mobility impairments. Students will present their findings and recommendations to decision makers at a culminating event at Borough Hall at 10 AM on Friday, August 2, 2013, where they will be addressed by Deputy Borough President, Sandra Chapman. This program model is now in its second year replication in the Caribbean with funding from Fulbright, welcoming its second cohort of 19 students from Trinidad and Tobago.
HCOP participants will attend up to three summers of five week full-time classes and activities at SUNY Downstate including Chemistry and Physics, Cultural Competency, Health Disparities, Writing for Science and Kaplan's PSAT and SAT preparation (normally a $1500 out of pocket expense for parents). The Institute and the SUNY Downstate's Office of Minority Affairs provide on-going activities to HCOP students throughout the school year to increase their awareness of health care professions and prepare them to enter college in these career paths.
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Clinical Research Experiences for High School Students recruits faculty mentors at SUNY Downstate, who oversee student projects related to their clinical research interest. Students have researched correlations between risk factors and non-compliance in diseases such as AIDs and asthma, observed and surveyed staff to assess knowledge and practice of correct hand hygiene, and compared rates of depression among patients undergoing dialysis for kidney disease. Student findings are presented in abstracts, posters and journal articles.
According to the After School Alliance's 2010 report, America after 3PM, summer learning loss is a major contributor to the achievement gap between low-income and high-income youth. Research demonstrates that students who attend afterschool programs regularly are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores and overall academic behavior.
"I didn't realize how much I'd learned until I saw how much more I knew than other high school students," said graduating HSA senior Erica Barnett, who won a competitive Posse Foundation scholarship. Erica participated year-round through the Health Disparities Research summer internship and the full-year Doris Duke Research Experience for High School Students, where she is volunteering this summer before going to Brandeis in the fall.
Despite the documented benefit of out of school time programming, particularly for minority youth, and the overwhelming interest of working parents, more than a quarter of our nation's children are unsupervised after school and during the summer. In New York, compared to the national average, the effects of the economy are more severely impacting afterschool programs, according to the Afterschool Alliance's 2012 report Uncertain Times. The critical continuity, depth and diversity of the Institute's youth programming is sustained through time-limited funding, like the non-renewable HCOP grant which expires in August of 2014. For more information on Institute program models and how you can help sustain them in your community, see http://www.arthurasheinstitute.org