GEAR UP Colorado – Diversity Day at Regis University’s Rueckert-Hartman College

Josue Martinez, SPT Class of 2023

On October 16th, the health professions making up The Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, hosted a Diversity Day event for the GEAR UP Colorado program. The programs involved included the School of Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, School of Nursing, and the Division of Counseling and Family Therapy. The goal of this event was to introduce and inform the many high schoolers who are a part of the GEAR UP Colorado program to the various health professions available to them after graduating high school. The day also provides an insight into what it is like to be a student in the health professions at Regis University.

Back in 2011, I attended my first after school GEAR UP program in Washington. At the time, it was a great after school program where kids could gather to finish up homework, reading assignments, or receive tutoring. In the decade since I last attended, it has evolved into so much more. The federally-funded pre-collegiate grant program now aims to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. The program now includes one-on-one mentoring and advising, college preparatory curriculum, financial aid literacy, STEM programing, college-level examination programs, and college visits, such as the one that took place last weekend.

Diversity Day at Regis kicked off on schedule with students from Arvada High and Adam City High school stepping off the bus at 9:00 am. Upon entry, students dropped off their signed consent and waver forms to participate in various activities from each department. You could feel the excitement in the air. In particular, the students could not wait to get into the cadaver lab as they asked, “When do we got to see the bodies??” Before the day could officially begin, the students were greeted with breakfast and a warm welcome from the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate programs, and our very own, Dean and professor, Mark Reinking.

We began our educational activities with a game of Jeopardy, with questions categorized by health profession. With each question, students would learn more about each profession, the kind of work involved, and the education required. Following Jeopardy, the kids were broken up into groups to explore activities that each health profession had set up. Niko Rodriguez, another SPT from the Class of 2023, and I had the kids participate in an impairment race. They were briefly educated on typical gait and then took a practice lap around the room. Then, we assigned and taught each of them a gait impairment, such as gastroc contracture or weak quadriceps. When the race began, each student struggled to adapt to their gait impairment. Toes dragging along the carpet was a great demonstration of a weak tibialis anterior, along with hyperextended knees as the students attempted to shut off their quads. The result of the activity was a slower gait speed, but more importantly, a visceral insight on what it’s like to live with an impairment.

The Gait Impairment Race Team – SPTs in the Class of 2023

The afternoon had several great activities lined up as well, but students still asked, “When do we get to see the bodies??” Cliff Barnes, our renown anatomist, along with first and second year DPT students, did not disappoint as they educated high schoolers on human anatomy and the invaluable resource that the cadavers provide our program.

The day was concluded with an inter-professional skit: an anxious, hypertensive skier had broken his tibia and while maintaining a prescription drug dependence. This may have been the most enjoyable part of the day for faculty, the students, and me as the patient proved hilariously difficult to manage for the nurse, pharmacist, councilor, and myself, the physical therapist. From the onset of injury to beginning outpatient physical therapy, the students received valuable insight on the care each health profession provides along the line of treatment.

I had the chance to speak one-on-one to a few of the students who attend the event and hear what they had to say about their experience on campus. Lexi, a 16-year-old sophomore from Arvada High said, “I had fun and it was a really inspiring experience. I enjoyed getting around and being active with the impairment race. I may end up looking into physical therapy to help people with their disabilities because of this experience.”

Jorge, a 15-year-old sophomore from Adam City High said, “I play soccer and I’ve had an ankle injury in the past. The recovery was frustrating because it limited me, but physical therapy helped a lot. I really enjoyed this event and thought it was cool and insightful.”

Heidi Eigsti, our Director of Graduate professions gave her thoughts on the event, as well. “I love seeing that we can get kids from underrepresented minority population sand at-risk high schools into our building interacting with our students and seeing what’s possible for their future.”

Sung Yi, a second year DPT student summed up this experience very well: “I didn’t have the opportunity to have this exposure; neither did my friends. Maybe if they had had this exposure things would have been different for them…I think it’s interesting that they always talk about endless potential. They feed that to us and everyone who’s young. But the thing is, potential can only be endless if you have the resources. If you don’t have the resources, potential is very limited.”

On a personal level, helping put together this event was very rewarding. My hope is that each of us who participated in the Diversity Day had the opportunity to be a resource for this underrepresented and under-served community. My hope is that by being part of this event, I helped a kid realize his or her own potential.

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