Upward Bound Public Health Concludes with Community Projects
Continuing the Upward Bound program begun last summer with Lorain, Ravenna and Windham local high schools, the college worked with 63 students throughout the school year to encourage higher education and promote the field of public health. The partnership began during a five-week on-campus residency experience last summer and culminated this spring, when students in the three schools mounted projects in their communities that identified a public health need and did something about it. As students began developing their projects, Upward Bound and the college initiated a partnership with AmeriCorps volunteers through the Northeast Ohio Medical University Health Professionals Affinity Community (NEOMED HPAC) to make them a reality.
Lorain’s project, called Operation Oakwood, #operationoakwood, involved collaboration with Lorain County Metro Parks to remove trash and lay mulch in Oakwood Park on Lorain Pride Day, May 16. The team designed a flyer and a video public service announcement (PSA), Let’s Restart and Fix Our Parks. “It included an original rap song, to help bring more students out to the parks for the cleanup and also for family and physical fitness activities,” explains Patty Robinson, assistant director, Upward Bound Public Health. The project merited a news story in The Morning Journal the day after the cleanup.
Ravenna students addressed teen insecurities and bullying in the project We Rise Up, #riseup. The team used a video PSA with the theme, We Rise Up by Lifting Others, to encourage intervention. In addition, the students distributed about 50 “candy grams,” during the month of April to vulnerable students and for use by school counselors. The parcels included sweets, a personal note of encouragement and a hand-crocheted flower.
In the project Healthy Assurance, #endwindhamfooddesert, Windham students addressed the food desert in their community by developing “seed bombs,” compressed balls of seeds, compost and clay that germinate in about three weeks. “The students bagged up the encapsulated seeds with information to educate families about the ease of growing their own cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelon,” explains Robinson. Windham also developed a video PSA and were invited to make a presentation to Leadership Portage County.
The students came to campus for two Saturday engagement days to work with volunteers from the college. “One day, the students focused on developing their programming, and on the second Saturday, they worked on storyboards for PSAs, video recordings, publications and communications tactics,” Robinson explains. All three schools participated in NEOMED Scholars Day on April 28, doing poster or oral presentations on their projects. Ravenna placed first in posters and will take an expenses-paid trip to Boston in the fall for a national competition.
Faculty from the college assisting with the program were Tina Bhargava, Mark James, Peggy Shaffer-King and Cindy Widuck. Student helpers were Erin Dwinnells and Joy Yala.
The college is one of three academic units at the university’s Kent campus selected for involvement in the well-regarded, federally funded Upward Bound program. This summer, a new crop of students will come to Kent for a summer academy or to take post-secondary courses for college credit, staying in dorms Sunday nights through Friday afternoons June 7-July 9. Their science curriculum will be on health disparities, which will lead to new projects in the schools and communities next year.
Upward Bound seeks to increase educational opportunities for first-generation, low-income students and families through comprehensive year-round services in targeted school districts. The programs also help students overcome class, social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education. Services include leadership, academic, career, cultural enrichment and social activities, specialized outreach events and tours and opportunities for employment and mentoring. The programs and services are at no cost to the participant.