Students sat on the floor or huddled around a desk, racing to build the tallest spaghetti tower that would hold a marshmallow on top of it.
The point of the 20-minute activity was to teach the students, high schoolers in the Riverhead district, team-building skills and to have a shared experience, along with the opportunity to learn prototyping.
The task was taught in the Health Careers Academic Readiness and Excellence summer program, a two-week class taught at local high schools by Stony Brook University School of Health Technology and Management professors geared toward preparing students for college and careers in the health care field.
HCARE was founded by Carlos Vidal, an associate professor at the School of Health Technology and Management.
This summer is the first year Riverhead has participated in the program.
“Not everybody knows exactly what they want to do,” HCARE professor Erik Flynn said. “So we give differentiated instruction. We go over the college application process, introduce how to write a college or scholarship application essay, time management, stress management and study skills. We want them to be good high school students and ready for college as well.”
The class ran Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the last two weeks of the summer and was free of charge to participating students. Twelve students were enrolled this summer, superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said.
In addition to college and career readiness tasks, students learned about careers in health care. Professionals in the industry visited the high school or called in through Skype to present to the students and allow them to ask questions.
Students attended a presentation by Farha Islam, a Stony Brook alumni who studied biomedical engineering and is now attending Columbia University to pursue her doctorate, Mr. Flynn said.
Some students said at the end of the program that the opportunity helped them decide what they want to study in college.
Azharia Allen, 14, said she’s interested in pursuing genetics in the future. Her classmate William Burkowsky, 16, enjoys sports medicine. Peter Guzman, 16, is looking to study occupational therapy after high school.
The students agreed that their favorite part of the class was the hands-on projects. One day they had to take parts of a rope and tie a particular knot, while another morning had them doing mock interviews.
One of the most memorable was an ethics assignment where they had seven people on a heart transplant list and only one heart to give so they had to choose who got to receive it.
Dr. Henriquez said the pilot year of the program has been so successful that Riverhead is looking to offer it for high school students next year, as well as introduce a program for middle-school aged kids.
Additionally, those who participated in this year’s program will have a white-coat ceremony to celebrate their accomplishments at the Sept. 25 Board of Education meeting, she said.
“I really enjoy the kids,” said Mr. Flynn, who teaches HCARE at five Long Island school districts. “Let me tell you the future is safe. They’re going to provide excellent health care and they’re going to contribute to a better world for us all.”
Photo caption: Riverhead High School students work on a task designed to teach them skills, such as teamwork and time management, that will help them in college and beyond. (Courtesy photo)