Local underrepresented minority high-school students were inspired to achieve more and serve others after participating in an immersive two-week learning experience through the Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) Summer Gateway program in Loma Linda, California, United States.
A variety of LLUH professionals and students volunteered their time to provide lectures and to assist with hands-on activities. This summer, nearly 70 students participated in the program, and 21 were selected to shadow practicing medical professionals for an additional week.
Summer Gateway aims to create positive attitudes toward health-care professions among high-school students through presentations, activities, and service opportunities. Launched in 2012, Summer Gateway is sponsored by the office of Community-Academic Partners in Services (CAPS) and the Institute for Community Partnerships. It was created when pipeline program Sí Se Puede merged with Loma Linda University’s other programs for Native American and African-American students. Sí Se Puede, which started in 2005, translates from Spanish as “Yes, you can!”
The program also provides training on how to take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) exam, apply for financial aid, and improve study skills.
“We want to help make college education more attainable for these young people,” said Pablo Ariza, CAPS director. “We know our pipeline program is a success because it continues to come full circle.” Loma Linda University’s 2018 commencement season saw two previous Summer Gateway program participants graduate with degrees in physical therapy and dentistry respectively.
Pablo Shul of Bloomington High School said he didn’t think he could ever succeed academically, but after attending Summer Gateway, he now knows a medical education is within his reach. “I have hope for my future,” he said.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians comprise approximately one-quarter of the total population of the United States but represent less than 10 percent of the workforce in the health professions of medicine, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy.
“The critical time for career intervention is before high school graduation,” said Juan Carlos Belliard, director of Loma Linda University Health’s Institute for Community Partnerships. “Summer Gateway Program encourages underserved students to achieve more for themselves, their families, and their community.”
Antoina Davis, a student from Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo, California, said she didn’t know what it meant to be a nurse or dentist before participating in Summer Gateway. “This program helped me visualize what it means to enter the medical field and find your passion.”
In addition to academic and career guidance, students participate in activities that promote physical activity, nutrition, spiritual care, and community service.
On the program’s service day, students were split up into groups to serve at three different community locations. “We chose service opportunities for the students that would demonstrate LLUH’s model of whole-person care,” said Oscar Bustillos, CAPS program coordinator.
One group of students volunteered at Huerta del Valle, the first urban community farm in the city of Ontario, California. Initiated in 2010, this grassroots agricultural effort has become a hub for sustainable organic production and distribution, community health, economic development, and nutrition education.
At the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County headquarters, students worked at a food bank center that disperses more than 10 million pounds of nutritious food each year in San Bernardino County.
The Way World Outreach in San Bernardino was another volunteer site. Opened in 2004, this church-turned-outreach-center provides aid and support services to abused women and children, individuals with special needs, and the homeless and unemployed.
Cajon High School student Hector Trejo said that after community service day, his eyes were opened. “Loma Linda University Health dramatically changed me as a person,” he said. “I am inspired to be a better person and become a humanitarian.”
Middle College High School student Jocelyn Marquez said she learned that a medical career is not just about the money, it’s about the people you’re caring for. “I will carry that thought with me for the rest of my life,” she said.