Western Michigan University (WMU) and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) have teamed up to offer the Health Career Pipeline Program, aimed at diversifying the health care field.
The program, which kicks off in mid February, runs for seven weeks and pairs under-represented and minority high school students with undergraduate mentors from health and human serices programs. According to WMU, each cohort will include 25 students and 25 mentors.
Nicole Horne, a graduate assistant at GVSU said she knew she wanted to be involved as a mentor. Horne specializes in organic chemistry and biochemistry. As a Black woman in the field of STEM, she said she considers herself a "double minority."
"By the end of the day you’re like double exhausted, from not just the work load but mentally, when minorities get into those fields especially people of color," Horne said.
While Horne said she doesn't see herself as someone who "had to overcome a lot," but said there were "definitely moments" where she had to overcome adversity because of her race or gender.
"There were those day-to-day microaggressions, and that’s kind of like the buzz word today. The things that you know that are there it might be the way that you look liked when you walk into a room, you know what people thought they were going to see. That is there so again I had to make the decision to not hear that chatter," Horne said.
As a mentor, Horne said she is excited to be able to give students knowledge she has learned over the years, both professionally and as a person. She notes the stress that comes with the industry can cause many to burn out, especially people from underrepresented groups.
"Those communities are finding space to talk about it themselves to now give back to a generation of high schoolers who are seeing that same pressure now," she said..."To pull the veneer off and say, 'we’ve trekked through that. Let us now show you how to not just be successful academically and professionally, but now the other hard work that for a lot of years people were ashamed to talk about,” Horne said.
According to WMU, participating high schools include Grand Rapids Public Schools (Innovation Central and Ottawa Hills) and Newaygo County Public Schools (Hisperia and White Cloud).