Student volunteers from the USF College of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM) are mentoring Tampa Bay Technical High School’s Health Administration Academy seniors for six months in the high school’s newest revolutionary program.
Founded in 1969, Tampa Bay Technical High School (TBT) has evolved throughout its lifetime and continues to be a birthing place for first-of-a-kind programs throughout the state, and even the nation, with its newest implementation of a Health Administration Academy Mentor Program.
Students and mentors meet once a week to discuss what TBT students can look forward to in their own college experiences, if they choose to pursue a career in health administration or related fields.
Credited with the creation of the unique program is TBT’s lead teacher of the Health Administration Academy Andrew Harris.
“The program could not have become what it is without the help and support of a great school district, principal, and other community members,” Harris said.
Harris, who earned his MBA and MHA, formulated the idea of initiating the HPM mentoring program based upon his strong belief “that older generations have a debt to the youth around them, a debt that they must provide education.”
In 2009, Harris approached the superintendent of the Hillsborough County Public Schools MaryEllen Elia.
It was with the help of Elia and former TBT principal, Chris Farkas, that Harris was able to earn a Federal Department of Education grant, which gave the SDHC the ability to construct what is now the Health Administration Academy. The Academy Mentor Program came about after years of support from USF toward TBT.
Harris then turned to MHA student and USF’s Healthcare Management Student Association President Taher Hamid to secure reliable and informative mentors for the programs’ students.
Hamid, who is also largely accredited with the program’s success, assured that all of the mentors went through an intensive interview process to determine the most adept and capable individuals possible to provide their advice to the high school students.
“Mentors are critical to development,” Hamid said. “Providing quality mentors assures that the students are able to be given the highest quality opportunity and information.”
All of the mentors who participate in the program are volunteers, which Harris believes to be one most characteristic parts of the program.
“Health administration is a caring profession filled with people who have a desire to help others,” Harris said. “This program gives these mentors a way to do exactly that.”
From the programs’ humble beginnings; it has since developed into a source of first-hand mentoring for TBT’s ever-expanding Health Administration Academy which now encompasses more than 150 students.
Past HPM mentors such as MPH student Jaylin Earl claim that the program is not only helpful to the high school students, but also to the graduate students who are offering their time and experience to educate them.
“It humbles you,” Earl said. “It makes you realize that although we may all still be young and figuring out what paths to take in our own lives that we can still help and have an impact on someone younger than ourselves.”
Many mentors have already volunteered to be a part of the program next semester, showing that the program’s outreach not only benefits the high school students, but also the HPM mentors.
Reem Yousif, a mentor who is pursuing her MHA at the COPH, claims that she has had “a mutual learning experience” with her mentee Sam, and wishes that she had had a mentor herself when she was a senior in high school.
This belief is also shared by mentor Sneha Grover, who is pursuing her MHA and has volunteered to participate next semester at TBT and also looks forward to continuing to build connections with students in the Tampa Bay community.
“I feel honored to be able to be a positive influence in another person’s life,” Grover said. “I understand the importance and power of guidance, motivation, and support that the mentoring program presents to the younger students.”
Despite the current success of the program, both Hamid and Harris hope that the program not only continues to flourish, but that it grows past their expectations.
Harris said that within the next few years he wants to include more students in the program—not just the academy’s high school seniors.
“With students who are so willing to be involved and have such a desire for learning,” the program can be expected to continue blooming with success and education of both former and current generations according to Harris.
Story by Danyelle Arnow, USF College of Public Health