Health Academy Holds Graduation

By By Andrew Kirk

By Andrew Kirk

Maryam Shahrebani, a student from East High School, spoke to a crowd of her peers at the closing ceremony of the Health Professions Academy Tuesday morning.

The ceremony, held in the Marriott Library’s Gould Auditorium, commemorated the efforts of more than 80 high school students from East, West and Highland High Schools for their participation in the academy.

Shahrebani and the other two student speakers chosen to give remarks-Alicia Grant from Highland and Hannah Bogen from West-were seen as students who had decided to go to college when they may not have thought to do so before entering the program, said Thelea Longhurst, an academic coordinator for the program from the Salt Lake City School District.

The Health Professions Academy is a program that started in 1999 to bring high school students to the U for introductory courses in Health Science professions said Jackie Smith, associate professor in the College of Nursing and project administrator for the academy.

“We offer in high school a sequence of classes for students who think they may be interested in health professions. They can see what the classes and jobs are like,” Longhurst said.

Students interested in continuing in the program for a second year can begin taking college courses or continue in the academy classes that count for both college and high school credit, Longhurst said.

Health Profession Seminar/Practicum 1001 is taught on campus and gives the students two semester hours of generals credit.

The program gives students excellent exposure to the U and increased vision to possibilities in health sciences, Smith said.

Besides exposing high school students to health science professions, the program also aims at helping the students get focused on coming to college.

“It speeds them along the way, gives them college credit, allows them to get used to the campus,” Longhurst said. “It’s a pipeline to give a smooth transition from high school to college.”

Shahrebani and the other two student speakers chosen to give remarks were seen as students who had decided to go to college when they may not have thought to do so before entering the program, Longhurst said.

Besides her dedication and accomplishments, Shahrebani also exemplifies the academy’s goal of increasing diversity in health science professions.

“As a public high school program, we’re open to all students, but we work really hard to recruit diversity,” Longhurst said. “We want to get them college bound. We want to make it comfortable to them for a smooth transition form high school to college.”

A success story Smith is especially pleased with is a Hispanic student who was in the program who later received a scholarship to the U and is now here studying ophthalmology.

Gena Baca, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, is just finishing her first degree from the College of Nursing. The daughter of a Taiwanese mother and a Hispanic father, she represents a diverse background and is enthusiastic about encouraging diversity, she said in her address. Baca has received numerous awards including the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Senior Award. Having done 400 hours of community service, she’s also a Distinguished Service Scholar. Longhurst and Smith felt her success at the U will be motivational to the students. Baca encouraged the students to not be afraid of making mistakes. She emphasized how much she learned and grew from the mistakes she made at the U.

“All the hard work you put into school will allow you to succeed,” she said. “Congratulations on a wonderful beginning.”

The speakers expressed gratitude for the exposure the program gave them to health sciences and college life. “Attending the U and participating in the Health Professions Academy has been so much fun,” Grant said.

“Because of my experiences with this program I am fully determined to become a doctor,” Shahrebani said.

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