Students, seniors learn from one other during Summer Blast program
By Karen Eckert
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
If Pitt County's Health Sciences Academy students receive a "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay assignment, they should have plenty to write about.
The academy students, all of whom have an interest in becoming some type of medical professional, are required to do a certain number of hours of community service, said Terry Edwards, recreation director at MacGregor Downs Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center.
Some of these hours have to be in a medical or clinical setting, Edwards said.
At MacGregor Downs, a skilled nursing facility that provides short-term rehabilitation and long-term care, students have been participating in a program called "Summer Blast," which Edwards developed and has been running for nine years.
The program allows students to interact with the residents by talking with them, transporting them within the facility, playing cards and board games, playing music, dancing, painting their nails and establishing relationships with them.
Some students also have contributed to the facility's "Around the World" program, an armchair travelogue series that has been running monthly since October.
That was the case last Friday for Faith Anderson, a rising senior at D.H. Conley; Christian Lingle, a rising freshman at South Central and James Strickland, a rising senior at North Pitt, who teamed up to deliver an interactive presentation on Germany that included slides and videos of castles, pretzels, beer, the Autobahn, Oktoberfest, the Bible, Beethoven and Einstein.
Giving one of the "Around the World" presentations allows students to work on their public speaking skills, said Lina Marji, a recreation assistant who helped establish the "Around the World" series. They also learn to take their audience into consideration, she said.
Students receive guidelines from the recreation staff on how to deliver an appropriate travelogue talk. For example, they are taught to present something so that if a local person from a particular country listens, he or she would feel happy and proud, Marji said.
"We don’t discuss politics or anything like that," she said.
Anderson, who hopes to attend Appalachian State University to obtain her bachelor of science in nursing degree and to eventually become a nurse anesthetist, said that her group had been working on the presentation for approximately two weeks.
“It’s been really cool,” Anderson said, explaining that the goal was to entertain the residents.
She said that her group wanted to show the residents what they might see if they went to Germany.
But the travelogue series does more than just entertain, Marji said.
"It gets people to thinking," she said.
Linda Evans, a resident at MacGregor Downs, said she has enjoyed the travelogues.
I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve been to because they take us to a different place, a different time, you just enjoy exploring it from the (students') point of view and it gives you ideas of things to come,” Evans said.
Evans said she also enjoys having the students around in general.
"We learn all day long from each other," Evans said. "They take us from place to place and it’s just a wonderful day when these kids are here."
Edwards said that the students she has worked with this summer have been "amazing."
“They all have people that they’ve been drawn to,' she said. "And the thing that touches my heart is that some of them will come in and maybe they go down the hall and they see someone and they’ll come back and say, ‘I want to go visit that person.’ So they pick up somebody new, maybe somebody that no one would go and visit and sit and interact with."
Edwards said that it is important for people going into the health care field to learn not to judge people by how how they look.
"If we do that, we miss a lot of what’s on the inside," she said.
"One thing I want (the students) to learn when they walk out of the building is to understand (the concept of) 'person first,'" Edwards said.
Whatever health care avenue they pursue, Edwards said she wants the students to understand that when they are working with patients or residents that each one is a human being with a mind, a body and a spirit.
"(People) are not going to always remember what you say, but they certainly are going to remember how you make them feel when you leave them," Edwards said.
The Summer Blast program has a theme to it, she said.
Participants board a "pirate ship" and set out on a journey in search of the Lamp of Knowledge throughout the summer. They visit different "islands" along the way. The "islands" are the neighborhoods where the residents live.
In the Lamp of Knowledge that the students eventually find are the relationships and the bonds they form with the residents, Edwards said.
On Monday night more than 80 students were eligible to receive Lamp of Knowledge awards in a ceremony held at MacGregor Downs. Those students had contributed more than 1,800 hours of service to the Summer Blast program, Edwards said.
Although the program has ended, Health Sciences Academy students will continue to volunteer at MacGregor Downs throughout the school year, Edwards said.
For more information about Pitt County Schools' Health Sciences Academy visit https://www.pitt.k12.nc.us/domain/30.