Summer Medical Prep Academy helps middle-schoolers get ready for careers in health

Summer Medical Prep Academy participants spent their afternoons at Henderson over the last two weeks learning good eating habits, solving murder mysteries and programming robots.

The academy’s nutrition, robotic and forensic components complimented one another to create a comprehensive learning experience for 51 middle-school students. It mostly catered to incoming sixth graders to acquaint them with new content and also introduce them to the middle-school environment.

“We had to revamp the program because of the pandemic,” program coordinator Eli Gomez said. “Each component of our program is preparing them for school, for college, or even trade school. We wanted to get them excited about learning again and give them the attention they have been missing for over a year. Every lesson we encourage them to keep achieving.”

Incoming sixth grader Rebecca Salgado enjoys constantly learning new things and particularly enjoyed the nutrition lessons.

“My favorite lesson so far was when we learned about calories,” Salgado said. “We had to enter our gender, age, weight and height to calculate how many calories we should have in a day. It was so interesting to see how different everyone’s calorie counts were.”

When the students weren’t in the classroom, they would head to the gym for a 30-minute Raise Up The Bar (RUTB) workout. RUTB provides a modifiable workout for all students so they can ‘Raise Up The Bar’ in every area of their lives.

“We are teaching our kids an exciting and innovative fitness program,” coach Bobby Macias said. “The students learn discipline, a brand-new vocabulary of fitness and how to hold one another accountable. The Medical Prep Academy is helping to inspire kids to pursue medical careers and our fitness program compliments that by allowing them to learn about what a healthy lifestyle can look like.”

The program has a strong volunteer following from Jefferson/Silva high school students who are ready and willing to give three hours of their time to mentor future Silver Foxes. For incoming Jefferson junior Roman Gomez, the time he spends with the kids is the highlight of his day.

“I grew up in a bad place,” Gomez said. “It was teachers and coaches that have always been my role models and I’m glad to be able to be that person for these kids. I volunteer with the physical education component of the program because it’s something I know well and enjoy doing. Working with the kids is something I look forward to each day.”

Josefina Cortez, a Young Women’s STEAM Prep eighth grader, hopes to become a forensic medical examiner in the future. The 3-year veteran of the medical prep academy found it gave her opportunities to pursue her passion.

“We are getting hands-on experience,” Cortez said. “We learned about different blood types and bodily functions, which have all helped me become a problem solver.”

The face-to-face program also is getting students ready to return in person to school this fall.

“I’m a little anti-social but I have been able to make friends which has helped me become less shy,” Cortez said. “I’ve been able to communicate more with my teachers, which will help me when I start school in the fall.”

Story by Mia Cadena  |   Photos by Reneé De Santos – El Paso ISD