By Chu-Ling Yee
La Habra Journal
After she watched her grandmother become affected by Diabetes, she knew she wanted to become a nurse. As the years went by, she never stopped trying to reach her goals. Vanessa Martinez is the first high school student to be accepted into the California State University of Fullerton under the Advancing Health Equity and Diversity, AHEAD program, a partnership between the university and La Habra High School to help students enter the medical field.
The AHEAD program helps educate and encourage young students to learn more about nursing. As part of the program, the Future Nurses Club was formed at the high school. Students learn the basics of health care and how one can improve theirs and their families’ health.
The program brings awareness to the community health issues by addressing social determinants. Social determinants are conditions that influence the individuals and group’s health. By educating the student about health care, they can reduce and prevent diseases by spreading the word.
The idea of the program came after Maria Matza, Cal State Fullerton professor, and Vicky Eaglson, La Habra High counselor, sat next to each other at a La Habra Collaborative meeting and began a conversation about helping high school students achieve. They then asked another colleague to help.
Dr. Christine Latham, professor of nursing at Cal State University of Fullerton, submitted a grant to the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Health Resources Service Administration, requesting to help prepare high school students for the medical field. The noncompetitive trainee-funding grant gives 1.05 million over the course of three years. The program began last July, which is focusing on nursing diversity too. They plan to better prepare under-represented high school students for careers in nursing.
As part of the collaboration between the university and La Habra High School, a maximum of five students in the program can be admitted to Cal State Fullerton’s nursing program.
Students participating in the program are not guaranteed admissions. The admissions office at the school will make the final choice on who gets admittance based on an evaluation of students’ grades and their achievements.
Martinez, 18, will be the first in her family to attend a four-year university. She is unsure about which specialty she will enter but is considering going into pediatrics. She loves working with children. The young adult currently volunteers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and La Habra Public Library.
“I’m excited to be able to start right away and not procrastinate,” Martinez explained. “I’m nervous for all the challenges, but also excited to take them too.”
Cal State Fullerton currently is no longer admitting freshmen as pre-nursing majors. Students will now be admitted as nursing. “By allowing them to come in their freshmen year, I think it takes away the stress and it also spreads our program out in four years instead of two years,” Dr. Latham said.
Martinez has been studying and working hard to get into the school. “This is for motivated individuals and Vanessa is one of that,” Eaglson said.
The club participants meet once every month. Students are given scrubs to wear with the logo, “Ahead” on them. This year, the grant paid for field trips and paid for 30 students to take the SAT’s. Those in the club learned how to obtain individual’s blood pressure and learned about proper hygiene etiquette.
“We’re really excited about what this could mean. There are no limits, ” Eaglson stated. They plan to expand and start parenting classes in the fall for parents and adolescents to be able to communicate better with each other.
“We have to own it. We have to do it,” she said. Students are not only the ones paving a way for their futures but for the entire community’s as well by being part of the program and learning more about preventing illnesses.
“I’m so thankful for having this opportunity to be able go to Cal State Fullerton,” said Martinez excitedly. “I’m thankful for this grant that we got and I’m pretty sure this will help others too in the future.”