Schweitzer Fellow and UT Southwestern medical student Hillary Evans understands the importance of higher education and early exposure to the medical field. Growing up in a small west Texas town, she wasn’t always aware of the opportunities available outside of her home. Through her involvement with the school basketball team, she began to see just what could be possible through education.
“In high school, the basketball team not only gave me the chance to discover how many different avenues are available and reinforced my drive to pursue medicine to help others,” she explained.
As an undergraduate, Evans participated in a volunteer program through her alma mater, where she spent a year tutoring nontraditional students seeking their GED. The students she worked with were faced with challenges that Evans had never encountered—everything from balancing children and multiple part time jobs, to gang involvement, to coping with movement between foster homes. This experience taught Evans the importance of working with others to break down barriers to their goals, meeting them where they are and helping in any way that she can, and also reinforced the power of education.
Evans elaborated on why, saying “My experience tutoring as an undergrad was eye opening, and I wanted to continue to give back and serve others while in medical school in a personal way. The Schweitzer Fellowship was the perfect opportunity to bring something that could help high school students realize their own potential.”
Evans’ project, for which she partners with Brother Bill’s Helping Hand to develop a college readiness/health professions program for high school students, is multifaceted: the first part of the program consists of six weeks of workshops, covering everything from undergraduate education and community college, as well as information about health career options and other training. The first three weeks of sessions is focused on more general, immediate goals for the students: introductions, financial aid information, how to select a school, ACT or SAT prep options, as well as practical skills like writing a personal statement and how to prepare a resume.
As part of the project, the students took two college tours, allowing them to get a small glance into what college life is like and see what opportunities would be available to them. Their first stop was Southern Methodist University, which houses the DFW chapter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. The day began with a campus tour led by a current student, giving the teens a chance to learn more about what life on campus is like: everything from classes, professors, dorms, and the extracurricular activities available.
Following the tour, Kim Konkel, Director of Recruiting and Communications for Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, provided an information session about the different majors and course requirements available through Dedman, as well as more information about scholarships and research happening through the college.
Speaking about the importance of researching options for college and available programs of study, Konkel elaborated, “Research shouldn’t begin once you enter college; it has to start well before then. Students need to know they have many choices and what they are so when the time comes they can make an informed college decision. It is important for students to do their research so they can figure out which college is the best fit for them and which will provide them with the breadth and depth of knowledge to make them a responsible leader who is competitive in our global job market.”
The second portion of the program is more health care career focused and includes speakers from different professions and educational programs to present to the students about required education, the types of courses they should take throughout college, financing their education, as well as personal stories about why and how they chose their current career.
“As a medical student, I know the health professions best, and touring UT Southwestern was a great experience. Our faculty really opened the doors for them, taking them into the gross path lab, showing off some of the unique specimens in the lab, like an elephant heart, and even allowing them to practice working on triage dummies in our labs. It gave them the chance to learn about medical school in a fun, approachable, and interactive way, which can be so critical for high school students,” Evans explained.
Recognizing the importance of keeping the students engaged and active during the sessions, Evans has designed the program to where students will participate in at least two community service projects in addition to the sessions. The summer portion of the program closes with personal meetings with each of the students to create a plan for their upcoming school year, and the meetings will continue once a month to allow them some time to check in with Evans and stay on track.
“Working with the students this summer has been an amazing experience, and we’ve been able to help them take real, actionable steps toward the college application process, like preparing personal statements for their applications and beginning ACT/SAT prep. I’m excited to continue to work with them and help them as they move into the next phase of their education and lives,” Evans concluded.