NEOMED helps students in Cleveland earn $7,000 in grant funds

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A program led by Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown recently guided teams of students at MC2 STEM high school in Cleveland, to earn grant funding from Siemens totaling nearly $7,000 for health and environmental programs they implemented in their communities.

Under the leadership of NEOMED faculty member Dr. Gina Weisblat, director of Education for Service, the year-long community action grant program inspired students to take a problem-based learning approach to developing program plans and grant proposals addressing community issues identified by each team.

Students conducted research about their issues, worked collaboratively with classmates and engaged with the larger community to create original grant proposals that were reviewed by individuals from NEOMED, Kent State University, Cleveland State University, the Ohio STEM Learning Network, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, John Carroll University, the Area Health Education Center and Siemens.

"By completing their research, funding requests and program execution, students acquired valuable and marketable skills necessary to create social change in the 21st century while working to improve the larger community," Weisblat said. "Empowering students to construct an environment where teaching and learning germinates and sustains itself is at the heart of NEOMED's ongoing efforts to develop students and communities throughout the region intent on bettering the health and livelihood of others."

Community issues addressed by the student projects included gambling, anti-bullying, increased physical activity among children, and mental, emotional and physical health concerns.

Throughout the program, the students drafted program plans, learned how to gain access to resources needed to execute their plans and then implemented their plans, refining the projects as needed.

The community action grant program culminated with Charles Cohen, national sustainability education director at Siemens, presenting the award funding to each team during an awards ceremony at the high school. Siemens, a global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering in industry, energy, health care and infrastructure, has been a leader in supporting STEM education and sustainability initiatives in communities across the country.

"Siemens is proud to recognize the value of empowering students to identify and creatively address issues impacting their local communities," said Cohen. "We applaud the leadership efforts of the academic and business partners supporting these initiatives. These help to create pipelines of community-minded, college-bound students ready to enact change. This program serves as a national model for this type of educational program, providing immediate and tangible impact for participants, as well as sustainable outcomes for surrounding communities."

The community action grant program at MC2 STEM high school is one of many Health Professions Affinity Communities (HPACs) being implemented under NEOMED's leadership as part of its larger community engagement initiative to support and guide high school students with an interest in pursuing a health professions career, empowering them to develop sustainable programs that make a difference in the health of their communities.

"While student participants stand to benefit greatly from this program, their communities benefit as well," said Erik Porfeli, Ph.D., assistant dean of community engagement and partnerships at NEOMED. "By focusing on health-related and environmental issues, the students' programs provide services aimed at improving the quality of life and health of community residents, which is also at the heart of NEOMED's mission. Together, we are preparing students to be actively engaged citizens, capable of enacting tangible change in society."

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