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Health Is a Learning Adventure

Volunteer Voice - Summer 2007

Sometimes you can just see the light bulb come on in a child’s eyes — the volunteers who work with the Health Adventures Program know all about that.

For 11 years, M. D. Anderson has collaborated with the Communities in Schools program for at-risk students. Funded by The Junior League of Houston, Inc., two schools are selected to participate in the program each year, both bringing nine students. These 18 students are matched with 18 adult “mentor” volunteers, and they all attend monthly Saturday sessions during the school year that expose them to health career options.

Students participating in the Health Adventures Program visit an M. D. Anderson lab and learn from Kimberly Murray, senior laboratory technologist in the School of Health Sciences.

“This year, several of the children participating in Health Adventures just metamorphosed about halfway through the year,” explains Cindy Shursen, program coordinator. “The kids got big smiles on their faces because they were excited about being here and learning what goes on in a big hospital like M. D. Anderson. It’s always encouraging when you see a transformation like that because you know that it means they get it.”

This year, the 4th and 5th graders had modules on child life in the Children’s Cancer Hospital, nursing, sterile processing, pharmacy, radiation oncology, laboratory medicine, rehabilitation services and the emergency center. The students were given backpacks and binders with follow-up questions to each module presented. After the site visits, students sit down with their mentors to answer the questions and discuss their experiences.

Longtime volunteer Kay Rogers says that she first became involved with Heath Adventures for a selfish reason. “I’m an old, white-headed woman,” she explains, “and I don’t think that many of these kids have much contact with people like me. I want them to realize that old people can be fun to laugh with and that there is someone to care about them. The students we have in the program aren’t always from the greatest homelife, but they are super kids, bright kids.”

Rogers says that it’s just fun to be with these children and she tries to never miss a session. “The mentors learn more than the children do,” she laughs.

Health Adventures concluded in late April with special commencement exercises for the participants. Volunteers in the program include Osvaldo Gomez, Hannah Cheung, William Lavery, Carolina Coronado, Jackie Friedman, Kay Rogers, Sharon LaTour, My Chau Nguyen, Carol Soto, Laurie Elmore, Norman Schneider, Daniel Parfitt, Lisa Goff, Gina Guidry, Evelin Young, Lyle Rhymes, Maria Truan and Mitchell Malvous.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center