I’ve been a part of Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) for four years and have been amazed by how much this NEOMED community organization has grown. Hundreds of students are now involved in creating projects they can sustain in their local communities across Northeast Ohio. Many of us will be present and eager to show our projects at HPAC’s fifth annual Scholar’s Day on Sunday, April 23, 2017 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the NEOMED Education and Wellness (NEW) Center.
What’s different about HPAC is that it allows students to create our own projects with our own potential solutions to community health issues. For the past three years, I have been working on the same project—each year expanding its reach into the community. Four of my friends and I created Dynamic Darlings, a girl empowerment program for third through fifth graders. We use lessons in fitness, self-esteem, healthy relationships and nutrition. Instead of holding a single event, our lessons are spread out over several sessions implemented in local elementary schools, each with a different theme such as moderation or motivation. This gives us a chance to spread out what we are teaching as opposed to cramming all of our information into one overwhelming session.
We were excited when a local newspaper covered our activities, but even more important, being in the program has taught us the importance of a long-term commitment to change. Now that we are seniors, we plan to pass along the Dynamic Darlings model to younger Bio-Med students with the hope that they will continue to empower more young girls in surrounding communities.
A Year’s Worth of Activities
HPAC starts each fall with a kickoff event to motivate students to activate change in their communities. Soon after, the research begins. As students, we Google until our fingers are numb and speak to local community members to find the key issues within our neighborhoods. Once we find them, we brainstorm ways that we can attempt to solve them. These solutions take many forms. There are 5K runs organized and gardens planted to battle obesity. Memorial services are held for victims of the opioid epidemic and campaigns are started featuring tips to help battle the common cold. Each project is specific to the student’s community. Student may choose to make it a single event, like a health fair or a color run. They may also create a project like Dynamic Darlings, which spans over the course of multiple years.
As spring approaches, most students implement their projects and analyze them to see what progress they’ve made in their community. To end the year, each group shares their project at Scholar’s Day.
While I can’t speak for all HPAC members, I’d like to think I can speak for most when I say that the Scholar’s Day event is the most rewarding part of being part of the organization. It gives us the opportunity to share what we’ve done through a poster and/or oral presentation. We get the chance to explore the event, learning about what other students have done in their communities as well. It’s exciting to be among all of these students who are eager to share their projects and to improve their community.
HPAC’s fifth annual Scholar’s Day will be held Sunday, April 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the NEW Center, 4209 State Route 44, Rootstown. Friends, family, and students interested in learning more about HPAC are welcome to attend; registration is required. For more information or to register, visit neomed.edu/event/fifth-annual-hpac-scholars-day/.
--Gabrielle Biltz is a senior at Bio-Med Science Academy and an intern in the NEOMED Office of Public Relations and Marketing.