On Friday, May 9, students from Roberto Clemente Community Academy and Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High Schools, along with students from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, gathered at Clemente to proudly present the product of over three months of hard work and collaboration. Beginning in January, undergraduate Public Health students from UIC introduced high school students to basic public health concepts through 13 weekly class sessions. Students learned that public health includes a wide range of topics that impact their everyday wellbeing, such as nutrition, disease, violence, and the environment. They also explored how topics like epidemiology and health promotion could be used to address health concerns in their community.
To put their new knowledge in to action, high school students identified relevant public health topics in their school and worked with the UIC students to create a survey for their peers. On Friday, they stood together to present their findings. Their research uncovered many strengths within their school. For example, most students at Clemente are getting adequate physical activity and enjoy their PE classes; they also felt comfortable discussing safe sex practices. Students also had the opportunity to make recommendations, based on the survey results, to their peers and school administrators present at the event. Suggestions included more education about the health impacts of fast food, a class or group that addresses teen dating violence, and a Public Health club where students could continue applying their new knowledge and explore careers in Public Health.
Principal Marcey Sorensen and assistant principal Robert Hartwig were present to congratulate their students’ hard work and hear their suggestions.
UIC students thanked participating high school students and several emphasized they felt they had learned even more from the community than they had taught their younger co-researchers. They were accompanied by their instructor, Rachael Dombrowski, Doctors Michele Kelley and Ebbin Dotson, and dean of the UIC School of Public Health Dr. Paul Brandt-Rauf. At the culmination of the student presentations, PRCC Executive Director José E. López spoke to the students about the importance of public health and their potential to apply their education for the benefit of their community. His remarks were followed by Dr. Dotson´s invitation to students to consider a degree in Public Health at UIC where, he assured, they would be welcomed and supported.