Dean Johnson-Mallard Celebrates Faculty Community Outreach Endeavors as 2022 Comes to a Close
As we once again approach the end of the year with its hustle and bustle of festive preparations, I find myself reflecting on moments of joy and connection. Walking the halls of Henderson Hall, I smile with gratitude as wisps of conversations wash over me. A student who has successfully mastered a new skill. A faculty member who has received recognition for their professional achievements. A university tour guide sharing tidbits of information as they walk prospective students and their parents through the building for the first time. The excited chatter of middle and high school students on a special visit to the college, where they begin to imagine their lives as nurses. This last scene may seem out of place for some, but it is through the dedicated community outreach of our faculty, that these opportunities are made possible. At a time of year when we hold in our hearts all for which we are grateful, I would like to recognize a few of these individuals and highlight their generous voluntary outreach endeavors with Akron Public Schools, Portage Lakes Career Center and St. Joseph’s Academy, along with their commitment to Kent State University’s partnerships with the I-Promise Scholars and Upward Bound program.
Loretta Aller, Ph.D., RN, CHSE, assistant professor; Ann James, MSN, RN, CEN, associate lecturer; and Laurie Robinson, MSN, RN, lecturer, have each spent countless hours volunteering their time working with and inspiring the youth of northeast Ohio. While each has her own reason for being drawn to volunteerism through community outreach, they agree the work they are doing helps to build a foundation in which these students, many of whom may be first-generation college attendees one day, believe success in their future pursuits is possible and within reach.
Partnerships between our faculty and the community have evolved in different ways. Occasionally a school district or after-school program will reach out to the college directly, other times, our faculty seek these opportunities out personally. In 2022, Dr. Aller, Associate Lecturer James and Lecturer Robinson have spoken to more than 800 students between fifth and twelfth grade about the nursing profession.
Dr. Aller initiated a connection with Portage Lakes Career Center’s (PLCC) Pre-Nursing program. During her visits to the class, she would provide information about the College of Nursing and make learning an enjoyable experience through games such as medical terminology BINGO. Her dedication to those students and PLCC led to her involvement on their advisory board.
Associate Lecturer James participated in the spring 2022 Akron Public Schools Career Exploration Day at Jennings Community Center. More than 300 fifth graders attended the event. In small groups, they visited each of the various career tables and listened to a 20-minute presentation. Associate Lecturer James spoke about the different roles and responsibilities of nurses, and she highlighted some of the specialized areas within the profession and spoke about the BSN program at Kent State University College of Nursing. She also used this time to show students a tuning fork, reflux hammer and stethoscope. She returned to Jennings Community Center in the fall for their Career Day. This time Associate Lecturer James gave a short presentation to more than 500 sixth graders during their lunch periods. Afterward, she answered questions about the college and nursing profession.
Working closely with Akron Public Schools and their Explorers program, these faculty have been able to make connections with middle schoolers who are interested in perusing a healthcare-related field. These students will go on to select their high school based on their intended career. It is imperative for our faculty to share early on the importance of communication, the roles of the nurse and designate time for students to practice skills and visit our simulation lab.
During the summer, 24 high school students in the Upward Bound program who were interested in health professions, got a glimpse into the nursing sequence at Henderson Hall. Over the course of five weeks, Associate Lecturer James and Lecturer Robinson taught various nursing skills and emphasized the importance of team building and communication. Students were surprised to receive their very own stethoscope and completed a small research project as part of their curriculum. Their posters were on display at the program’s closing ceremony.
Additionally, 20 high school students from the I-Promise School also visited the College of Nursing this past summer. Under the supervision of our devoted faculty, they practiced checking reflexes, donning personal protective equipment, assisting a patient onto a bed pan and learning the proper hand washing technique.
A few weeks ago, high school students in the Health Sciences Honors Program at St. Joseph Academy came to visit Henderson Hall. Dr. Aller advised these students as they practiced nursing skills on each other and the manikins in the simulation lab. The group, which was science and math-focused, was concerned about taking the best AP courses that would help them succeed in college. Regardless of whether they become nurses or find their calling in another healthcare-related field, these young minds are the future of our profession and the healthcare system.
The connections our faculty members are creating bring Kent State University to the forefront of these students’ minds, and we know it is working! Four graduates from Portage Lakes Career Center enrolled at a Kent State campus for the fall 2022 semester. Additionally, a past Upward Bound participant is currently in her sophomore year in the nursing sequence.
It is imperative that we continue to prioritize visits and create partnerships with these and other local school districts as it is their students who will be making the important decisions about where to attend college and what career path to take. I am grateful that Dr. Aller, Associate Lecturer James and Lecturer Robinson’s passion for nursing is reaching these young minds early in their educational journey. It is their encouragement that will help these young students realize they can become compassionate and caring nurses. At this time of year especially, I am thankful for all our faculty who demonstrate the heart of the College of Nursing both in our classrooms and out in our communities.
Now as we turn the page and prepare to welcome in a new year, it is my hope that all your holiday celebrations will be filled with love, joy and treasured memories.