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Program matches health professionals with RPS 205 freshmen

On paper, Aubrey Graham and Evelyn Kingsavanh don’t appear to have much in common. One is a second-year medical student who is familiar with high-stakes testing; the other is a high school freshman who hasn’t taken a semester exam yet.

It didn’t take long, however, before the two were comparing notes about how they were alike: Both were into English, theater and musicals; both played more than one sport in school and both were motivated to get good grades.

Second year medical student Aubrey Graham meets Evelyn Kingsavanh, the Jefferson High School freshman she will mentor.

Second-year medical student Aubrey Graham meets Evelyn Kingsavanh, the Jefferson High School freshman she will mentor.

The two are among 70 pairings of Jefferson High School freshmen with medical, pharmacy and nursing students. It’s part of the Leader to Leader (L2L) program, a four-year mentorship initiative involving the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine at Rockford, its College of Pharmacy and the Rockford University College of Nursing. It’s designed to inspire Jefferson students to pursue higher education or career training after high school. A match day event was held at Jefferson late last month.

The program is funded through a community health research grant administered by the College of Medicine. Success for the Rockford Public Schools students will be measured, in part, by improved absenteeism, lower dropout rates, higher grade point averages and better self-esteem and confidence.

The payoff for the health professions students is equally as powerful. They have a chance to see– even before they become an MD, RN or a doctor of pharmacy–that their advice has made a difference in someone’s life.

“I hope that she can come to me with questions that she might have about literally anything and –I don’t know—maybe we can inspire each other,” Graham said in a short RPS 205 video about the mentoring program. Graham plans to practice rural medicine.   

Alexis Llamas is a third-year medical student who is coordinating the leader-to-leader initiative. Even though the Jefferson students were picked for their leadership potential,  Llamas knows high school can be a hard time. Issues at home or at school are bound to pop up; she hopes the mentors can be like a big brother or big sister.

The mentoring pairs are encouraged to email each other at least twice a month. Events will be scheduled every six to eight weeks, including help with summer job applications and a field trip to the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The program was the brainchild of Linda Chang, a College of Pharmacy professor. About 80 prospective mentors responded to the first call for volunteers. All but 10 of them committed to and trained for the program.

 “It bugs me that for so many kids, there’s so little hope,” Chang said. “We want to give hope.”

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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1 Comment

  1. Colleen Holmbeck

    Thanks Mary. This sounds like an excellent program . Bless those Med. school volunteers.

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