Teens don't always make the right health choices.
But for the nearly 50 adolescents who participated in the Health and Wellness Explorers program this summer, the process of making better health choices in their daily lives has been simplified. And thanks to the program, a world of possible careers in medicine has opened up to them.
2012 marked the second year of the Health and Wellness Explorers, a partnership between the Kansas City Public Library and Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill . And thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Bipin Avashia, this year's effort was bigger and more informative than ever before.
Every Thursday in July, 47 teens from the Library's Southeast, North-East, and L.H. Bluford branches came together to explore careers in medicine by visiting local medical sites and connecting with health educators.
Through a series of weekly field trips and two lock-ins, they not only learned about jobs in medicine, they also learned how to make healthier choices in their lives (whether it's diet and nutrition or sexually transmitted diseases).
"During our presentation on nutrition, I learned that the students had no idea what a calorie or serving size mean when choosing a healthy food item," recalls Raquel Garcia, a community health nurse at Truman Medical Center. "For most of the teens, this was the first time they were exposed to healthier food items such as yogurt and turkey burgers. Watching the students eat the fat-free, sugar-free items and loving them was one of the most rewarding experiences of the summer."
On field trips they visited the Truman Medical Center, the Culinary Arts Center at the Guadalupe Center, Penn Valley Community College's Health and Science Institute, and the Kansas City Fire Department Ambulance Barn.
At Penn Valley the students learned about career programs available through the Health and Science Institute and toured the college's state-of-the-art mock hospital, complete with simulation emergency and operating rooms.
The teens learned that within a year or two from graduating high school, they can become first responders by attending Penn Valley's Paramedic training and earn almost $32,000 a year. Information like this helps these young people set their sights on a future beyond high school.
To celebrate their experience, two overnight lock-ins took place in July and August offering the teens a safe place to be on a Friday night with a group of caring adults from Truman Medical Center and the Kansas City Public Library.
"After spending four Thursdays together, these teens, from three areas of the city, knew each other well," recalls outreach manager Mary Olive Thompson. "I realized this during one of the lock-ins when a group of 12 or so teens played a pick-up game of kickball in the gym at Tony Aguirre Community Center using their shoes as bases. I understood then that this type of opportunity had a much broader impact."
During the first lock-in, on July 27, the Explorers spent the evening at Worlds of Fun, then headed to the Tony Aguirre Community Center to participate in recreational activities, video gaming, and watching movies.
For the second lock-in, Friday, August 10, the crew went to the AMF Bowling Center in North Kansas City to ride the go karts, play putt-putt, and bowl. That night ended at the Aguirre Center again with recreational activities.
Following the fieldtrips, many of the teens expressed interest in future field trips including requests to make college visits with the Library in the spring!
"The field trips with the teens were important for them," says librarian Meghann Henry, "but they were also important for us as librarians. After going on these adventures together we now have a better sense our teens' likes and dislikes, what they know, and their viewpoints about their futures. This experience has put us in a position to better serve them at our branches."