This post is by Christine Huynh, a junior at The University of Texas at Austin and director of communications for GHealth Austin.
GHealth Austin, a health science education organization at UT Austin, is dedicated to helping GED students achieve their educational goals, improve health literacy and live longer and healthier lives. Dell Medical School's sponsorship of GHealth, through the Health Leadership Apprentice program, enables undergraduate students to utilize the advice of top experts.
Our team of 30 student volunteers from UT Austin and St. Edward’s University attends weekly shifts at LifeWorks to tutor students in health and life science topics included on the GED test. Many of the students come from communities where people are at higher risk for preventable conditions but have less access to resources and face many barriers to accessing appropriate care.
Through our work with high school equivalency programs, GHealth hopes to address health and educational inequities in Austin.
This spring, we exceeded our fundraising goal, raising $2,238 through a HornRaiser crowdfunding campaign to combat health and educational disparities in Austin. These generous gifts will sponsor anatomical models, CPR kits and materials for hands-on activities to facilitate collaborative and deepened learning experiences. Thanks also to the American Heart Association for donating three digital automated blood pressure monitors, which students have already started using to study the cardiovascular system.
In January, we won a Youth Creating Change: Healthy Living Through Civic Engagement mini-grant, which will help us, along with the AHA, train GED students in hands-only CPR, a life-saving skill that can reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular events in their communities. Thank you to the Community Collaborative for Child Health, the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living and the St. David's Foundation for this award.
In the future, these donations will also help us organize events for GED students. GHealth’s Community Engagement Committee is planning High School Equivalency Day at the UT Austin campus. This event will include a campus tour, science activities, an admissions workshop and talks from professors, students and alumni. By introducing GED students to the university environment, we hope to support and encourage their transition from earning their GED certificate to pursuing higher education.
This semester, with the help of the AHA and UT Austin’s Faculty Innovation Center, we also enhanced our curriculum and the way we present it. We updated our volunteer educator training to include teaching strategies, cultural competency and trauma awareness. Volunteer educators took cultural competency surveys to help recognize and reduce implicit biases. We also partnered with Austin Community College’s Adult Education Division to begin volunteering in high school equivalency courses this fall.
Among the many moving experiences of this program, one in particular stands out.
John*, a LifeWorks student, had a particular interest in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Volunteer educators discussed heart failure and why smoking is a risk factor. Overhearing the conversation, José*, another student, said he had not known smoking could be so dangerous and acknowledged that it is difficult to quit.
John told José that as a former smoker himself, he had successfully quit, and that José could, too. The next day, volunteer educators brought José information about strategies and benefits of smoking cessation and helped him access supporting resources.
John and José’s story is one of many interactions that illustrate the deep connections made through establishing an interest in health education.
Our semester started strong as we logged nearly 400 classroom hours by the first week of March. Even as many programs and in-person interactions ended due to the coronavirus outbreak, our commitment to GED students continued: We conducted online lessons through video calls through May.
Through our partnership with Dell Med, UT Austin, St. Edward’s University, LifeWorks, the American Heart Association and Austin Community College, we look forward to continuing to empower students and communities through education in the fall. To support our mission or learn more about how you can get involved, visit our Facebook page.
*Names have been changed to protect the students’ privacy.