Central Pennsylvania students get a STEM education sneak peek

An essay about their health care hero recently earned 12 students from schools across Central Pennsylvania recognition from the American Heart Association and Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and the opportunity to learn what it takes to become a health care hero during an exclusive STEM education day. The essay contest winners recently gathered at the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa. for a full day of hands-on learning experiences, instruction and conversations with Penn State Health physicians and health care professionals.

Students Jazleyn Linares, Yahidanny Vargas Martinez, and Brennan Stewart learn to ventilate and monitor patient vital signs using biofeedback mannequin.

Students spent the morning learning and practicing real-world clinical skills in the college’s simulation (SIM) center including robotic surgery techniques, patient ventilation, hands-only CPR and AED response, and identifying intravenous lines. They also learned about the structure of the heart and worked together to turn a pile of craft supplies into a functioning heart replica.

“There is a pressing need for more young people to pursue careers in STEM, which is why it was important for us to work with the American Heart Association to show local students how to start on a variety of paths toward this educational transformation,” said Dr. Thomas Chin, professor of pediatric cardiology at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. “The students walked away with practical skills they can apply to a future career in health care or technology, as well as valuable lessons about the importance of teamwork in learning and problem solving.”

The essay contest invited students in grades 6-11 who are interested in learning more about STEM outside of their regular classroom to submit essays about their favorite health care hero, whether that person is a well-known historical figure or someone in their community.

The essay contest winners included:

  • Shania Berkheimer, Spring Grove Area High School
  • Cassie Bollinger, Ephrata Middle School
  • Tori DeFrancesco, Mount Carmel Area Jr./Sr. High School
  • Courtlyn Gould, Red Lion Area Senior High School
  • Amaya Jones, Ephrata Middle School
  • Jazleyn Linares, Red Lion Area Junior High School
  • Elaina Martin, Red Lion Area Junior High School
  • Carly Railing, Penn Manor High School
  • Viktoria Reber, Gettysburg Area Middle School
  • Brennan Stewart, Eastern York Middle School
  • Alem Tesfaye, Central York High School
  • Yahidanny Vargas Martinez, Lebanon High School
Students use craft supplies to construct a functioning heart model. (from left to right) Brennan Stewart, Carly Railing, Yahidanny Vargas Martinez, Cassie Bollinger, Amaya Jones and Courtlyn Gould

The STEM education day and essay contest were part of Penn State Health Children’s Hospital’s Youth Health Movement Platform Sponsorship with the American Heart Association. The sponsorship supports a variety of educational opportunities for students throughout central Pennsylvania that participate in the American Heart Association’s Kids Heart Challenge program.

For more information about the American Heart Association’s kids health initiatives, visit heart.org/kids.

2022 essay contest winners – Back row: (from left to right) Molly Emrich, American Heart Association; Jazleyn Linares; Tori DeFrancesco; Courtlyn Gould; Brennan Stewart; Shania Berkheimer; Alem Tesfaye; Yahidanny Vargas Martinez; and Dr. Thomas Chin, Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. Front row: (from left to right) Carly Railing; Cassie Bollinger; Amaya Jones; and Viktoria Reber.