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Doherty High School seniors and longtime friends (from left) Ina Perez, Jessica Atuahene and Tildah Fredua strengthened their “pact” at the 2016 High School Health Careers Program.
July 20, 2016

Students in High School Health Careers Program driven by dedication, determination

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  • Medical School
Enrichment opportunity propels motivated students toward their goals

Worcester teenagers Enrique Delgado, Ina Perez, Tildah Fredua and Jessica Atuahene are determined to do what it takes to succeed in careers in health care. They and 14 other local students who share that goal are members of UMass Medical School’s High School Health Careers Program Class of 2016.Now in its fourth decade, the program offers a month-long, tuition-free educational enrichment immersion for Massachusetts high school students who are from minorities underrepresented in health care, or are economically or educationally disadvantaged. Participants learn about a broad range of health care and science professions through rigorous academics that are complemented with enrichment activities, field trips and seminars in cultural and contemporary health issues.

“As a first generation American child of a single mother, this program is helping me to achieve my greatest hope of being the first individual in my family to obtain an advanced degree to become a nurse practitioner,” said Delgado. “I understand that achieving such a goal will not be easy and the High School Health Careers program will be a great stepping stone to guide me on my path.” A member of the Health Sciences Academy and the Health Occupations Students of America chapter at North High School, Delgado said his interest in nursing was sparked by his older sister, a licensed practical nurse at Worcester’s Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center.Friends and classmates since sixth grade, Doherty High School seniors Atuahene, Fredua and Perez inspire each other. Already having much in common as eldest siblings who serve as role models for younger brothers and sisters, they discovered their shared interest in science and health care while taking advanced placement classes together.

Upon reading the bestselling book The Pact for the summer’s English class, the three young women were struck by the similarities between themselves and the African American friends of the original “pact” of the book’s title—despite the odds stacked against them as children in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Newark, N.J., Sampson Davis, MD, and two likeminded friends, Rameck Hunt, MD, and George Jenkins, DMD, prevailed with determination, hard work and each other’s support.

“It really matters who you surround yourself with,” said Perez “We found that they had similar experiences always being together, always trying to push each other and take advantage of opportunities.”

“We can be friends and motivate each other as mentors as well,” Atuahene said.

Internships are a highlight of the program for many participants. As an aspiring nurse practitioner, Delgado appreciated being able to shadow nurses on a general medical/surgical floor in the hospital. Seeing a man who has been a nurse for 22 years in action made a big impression.

Delgado witnessed this nurse serving as intermediary in a tense interaction between a team of doctors and a patient diagnosed with cancer and his family members. “He was able to talk to the docs and the patient in a way that both could understand,” said Delgado. “The way he was able to defuse the tension and keep his composure and poise was something I found very inspiring.”

High School Health Careers 2008 participant Cedrick Boursiquot returned to the program in a new role this year as the class’s information technology instructor. Boursiquot turned to childhood development and education while an undergraduate at Tufts University and is now a high school teacher in Boston.

“Coming back here is a wonderful experience,” said Boursiquot. “These kids are hardworking, courteous, motivated and smart.”

This year’s High School Health Careers students also took advantage of a new opportunity to address a community health challenge: low flu vaccination rates among high school students. After learning about the problem and brainstorming ways to encourage others to get flu shots in their own schools, class members will collaborate on a UMMS initiative in the Worcester Public Schools to get more teens vaccinated.

Perez, Freduah and Atuahene have already signed on.

High School Health Careers Program Class of 2016

Joel Adade, Burncoat High School
Dorean Asuako, Doherty High School
Jessica Atuahene, Doherty High School
Kaoutar Bouaitah, Revere High School
Jessica De Los Santos, Kipp Academy
Enrique Delgado, North High School
Stephanie Duque, Holyoke High School
Mavis Dwobeng, North High School
Tildah Fredua, Doherty High School

Rose Grady, Leicester High School
Aryent Kajtazi, Doherty High School
Diane Khong, Burncoat High School
Princilla Minkah, South High School
Ina Perez, Doherty High School
Edmilson Pires, Jeremiah E. Burke High School
Adwoa Sefah, Worcester Technical High School
Edgar Valencia, Doherty High School
Antoinette Walley, Doherty High School

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