Essay contest wins 16 central Pennsylvania students a day of real STEM education

An essay about making their school heart smart recently earned 16 central Pennsylvania students recognition from the American Heart Association and Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and an exclusive STEM education day. The essay contest winners gathered in September at the Children’s Hospital for a full day of hands-on learning experiences, instruction and conversations with Penn State Health physicians and health care professionals. They left with a better understanding of the many paths that can lead to a STEM career and practical skills that they can put to use now.

Students spent the morning learning real-world clinical skills in the college’s simulation (SIM) center including a safety scavenger hunt, patient ventilation and hands-only CPR and AED response. The most surprising of the lessons involved makeup, not monitors. Students volunteered to roll up their sleeves and become the canvas for very realistic simulated injuries which are an important part of many training exercises. They also learned about the structure of the heart from Children’s Hospital pediatric cardiologist Dr. Thomas Dispenza and worked together to turn a pile of craft supplies into a functioning heart replica.

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 explaining how they would implement a campaign in their school to spread awareness about the importance of learning how to respond to a cardiac emergency by calling 9-1-1, starting Hands-Only CPR and using an AED.

The essay contest winners included:

  • Penelope Alcaro, Saint Joseph School, Mechanicsburg
  • Daniel Benack, Manheim Township Middle School
  • Mallory Cassel, Commonwealth Charter Academy
  • Ainsley Conner, Lower Dauphin Middle School
  • James Cornett, Pequea Valley Intermediate School
  • Olivia Deitrick, Harrisburg Christian School
  • Abigail Fritzinger, Landis Run Intermediate School
  • Aurelia Jbarah, St. Joseph Catholic School, Hanover
  • Kyrie Kachel, Landis Run Intermediate School
  • Fatime Kochi, Manheim Township Middle School
  • Sofia Loranzo, Lower Dauphin Middle School
  • Reese Marshall, Lower Dauphin Middle School
  • Claire Nauman, Manheim Township High School
  • Alison Spigelmeyer, Manheim Township Middle School
  • Lina Zheng, Lebanon High School
  • Aurora Ziegler, Lower Dauphin Middle School

The STEM education day and essay contest were part of the 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