Each winter, Lang Youth program coordinators make presentations to sixth-grade students at 25 partnering schools within the community. Students then apply. “We receive about 100 applications for typically 14 spots each year,” says Maria Molina, Lang Youth’s program manager. Grades, school attendance, and teacher recommendations are taken into consideration as well as two student-written essays and a personal statement from their parents. Students and their parents are interviewed before being accepted.
“We’re not just recruiting students; we’re recruiting families,” says Molina.
For the next six years, the scholars commit to attending the program every Saturday during the academic year from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and five days per week in July at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s campus, completing nearly 300 hours of course work and activities every year.
“They grow up with one another,” says Molina. “By the end of the program they’re practically brothers and sisters.”
Each year, scholars focus on a new set of skills to prepare for the medical field. In Phase I (seventh–ninth grades), they build a solid foundation in the sciences through interactive and hands-on learning experiences. “Students participate in dissections and understanding the human body,” says Molina. “It’s like a mini-medical school.” In Phase II (10th–12th grades), scholars apply their knowledge of health and science through a community and global health curriculum in which they explore local health issues such as obesity, access to care, and asthma in Washington Heights and Inwood.
There is also a heavy focus on internships, which match students with clinics and departments at NewYork-Presbyterian and throughout the community, giving them hands-on experience in a professional health workplace. Students are mentored by NewYork-Presbyterian physicians, nurses, and healthcare personnel, and the Lang staff. In addition, college preparation is taken very seriously. Scholars participate in intensive standardized test preparation and college campus tours and get assistance with scholarship research and college applications.
The summer program has a camplike feel. Students arrive at the Hammer Health Sciences building at Columbia University Medical Center at 9 a.m. and stay until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday during July. Younger students spend time exploring environmental medicine topics like air pollution and climate change, taking educational field trips, and shadowing health practitioners and administrators at NewYork-Presbyterian for a firsthand look at patient care through clinical rotations.
“For me, personally, I really like the advisers,” says Alexandria Ford, a 13-year-old scholar in her first year of the program. “I love the way they teach, how they are able to take very complicated medical things and just make it simple for us to understand, and then expand on that idea.”