CHBS Pathways encourage local middle schoolers to pursue health-related careers

Middle school students visited the College of Health and Behavioral Studies for Pathways to learn about health-related majors and careers.

The College of Health and Behavioral Studies (CHBS) welcomed over 130 local middle school students to Pathways, where JMU students, staff, and faculty collaborated to inspire interest in health-related careers and majors for the middle school students.

“Pathways broadens the perspective of youth to get a better understanding of what lies ahead of them,” said Andy Luong, senior Psychology and Sociology major who volunteered at the event. “JMU, a major or a career in health – seeing for themselves what their futures could look like can help them decide what they want to do, what they’re interested in and how exactly they can make it all happen.”

Students from Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Staunton, Augusta County and Rockingham County participated in the event. Faculty and students from CHBS departments, as well as staff from Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS) and the Dean’s office, volunteered to organize and facilitate aspects of the middle schoolers’ visit. JMU student organizations, including SGA, CHBS Inclusive Excellence Student Council, CHBS Ambassadors, and academic honor societies volunteered to work with the students the day of the event.

pathways-dietetics.jpg“It was a broad swath of people,” said Doug Hochstetler, Associate Dean of CHBS, who was on the planning committee for Pathways.

“Pathways emphasizes the high demand for health professionals, the security of jobs after graduation, and the rewarding aspect of making a positive impact on people's lives,” said Reem Mohammed, who contributed to planning the event and serves as the Program Coordinator for Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center, a program of IIHHS.

The event emphasized health careers and professions, including those with which middle school students may be less familiar, such as audiology, occupational therapy, and dietetics, to showcase the wide variety of career paths available to the students.

“One of the goals is to get middle school students on campus and just see what the college is like. Then secondly, to expose them to potential career opportunities within the CHBS areas of study,” said Hochstetler.

After attending a Welcome Orientation in Holland Yates Hall, the students walked to the Health and Behavioral Studies building to participate in hands-on activities, presentations, and panels to learn more about different careers in health fields and about JMU.

“Overall, the event was successful, with the most impactful aspect being the hands-on experiences provided to the students,” said Mohammed.

pathways-at.jpgActivities and panels from the academic units at CHBS aimed to connect students to an understanding of health-related higher education and health careers. For example, some students utilized equipment in the Occupational Therapy lab to strengthen their balance. They also learned about power-packed snacks with Dietetics and tried some food samples. Audiology faculty members provided a tour of their hearing research lab, where students played games to localize sound and interacted in the sound-proof booth.

Although the hands-on activities were very engaging, student panels were a favorite event for both JMU and middle school students alike.

“My highlight was sharing my own experiences of JMU on the student panel,” said Luong. He enjoyed answering questions from the middle school students, and shared that the experience allowed him to “reflect on my own journey here in the process.”

 “You could really tell that the middle school students were tuned in and really interested in hearing directly from the [JMU] students,” said Hochstetler.

“JMU student volunteers effectively engaged the tween-aged middle-schoolers,” said Lincoln Gray, professor of Communication Sciences and Disorder, who was on the planning committee for the event.

“In fact, one of the faculty in my session asked the JMU students to say what their GPAs were in high school,” said Hochstetler. This was to prompt the middle school students to think about the actions they could take now to prepare for a similar future at JMU or other institutions.

pathways-ot.jpgAlong with promoting health careers, the event streamlines planning and organizing requests for field trips or events for local students the college receives.

“We typically will receive requests from local school districts to bring students to campus,” said Hochstetler. “A year ago, we started to think about what if we had intentional visit days.”

The planning committee for CHBS Pathways will debrief using volunteer and student reflections in order to continue hosting Pathways as “intentional visits” for middle and high school students in the coming years, with sessions in Fall and Spring semesters.

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by Lindsey Park

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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