Derrick Carter had his first task already planned for the new laptop.
The fifth-grade at South Avondale School slid the computer out of its case and began musing about a PowerPoint presentation on Central American civilizations. He needed information and images about the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas for a school project.
His mentors, Caroline Hensley and Kevin McDonald, two second-year UC medical students, hope the computer from Med Mentors, a volunteer mentorship effort in the College of Medicine, will give Derrick an edge in completing his assignments.
"Derrick has a ton of projects he has to do for school,” says Hensley. "He does a great job of working on them and coming over and using our computers to search things and type things out. Now he can do those things at home. He can practice typing and writing assignments professionally. He has been asking for a laptop, something he can do his homework on, for a while.”
Med Mentors presented 20 laptops to elementary schoolchildren and their parents at a special ceremony in CARE/Crawley Atrium Tuesday, April 10. Anil Menon, PhD, director of the undergraduate Medical Sciences Program, and Wan Lim, PhD, associate professor-educator of medical education emeritus and founder of Med Mentors in 2001, were on hand as masters of ceremony and to offer words of encouragement to the students.
Med Mentors, one of the College of Medicine’s most popular student outreach activities, connects 200 mainly medical students to about 150 school-age mentees. The organization works closely with the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative (CYC) to train mentors and link them to Cincinnati Public School children for mentorship.
"Students use the laptops for school projects and as a new way to enrich their learning,” says Charles Cavallo, MD, president of the Med Mentors advisory board and instructor in the UC Department of Pediatrics. "The mentors have noticed improvement in behavior and responsibility and in academic performance. We recognize that literacy is one of our pillars and computer literacy is a foundational part of learning. Kids who don’t have access to a computer are really at a disadvantage.”
Mentees along with their medical-student mentors had to apply for a laptop. If it is granted, the mentee, the child’s parent and mentor must sign an agreement for proper use they will abide by, says Cavallo.
"The ultimate vision is to ensure that every student in the program who wants a laptop can obtain one,” says Cavallo. "This is our third year and we are steadily making progress.”
The laptop presentation was funded by a $10,000 grant from medical staff at Cincinnati Children’s and a $10,000 grant from the Clare Family Foundation.
"This program is so important because it provides an early route to developing computer literacy, and more importantly, allows students to be independent learners,” says Domenic Termine, a second-year medical student and one of two student co-directors of Med Mentors.
Mikail Siddiki, a second-year medical student is also a co-director of the program.
"My mentee is in seventh grade and he received a laptop last year,” explains Termine. "The ability for him to use Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and other software at home to do school projects is a huge relief, especially when he otherwise may not have had the means to do so.
"He uses an application to improve his typing and there are even games to work on math and spelling,” says Termine. "He is a smart and hard-working student; this laptop has only supplemented his academic growth. It is difficult to imagine how different a child's education would be growing up without access to a computer and that's why the Med Mentors’ laptop initiative is so important.”
Mentees come from various schools including several near the College of Medicine, such as North Avondale Montessori School, South Avondale School and Rockdale Academy. The mentoring effort at UC targets students in grades three through six, though some students stay with Med Mentors for longer periods, says Cavallo.
Med Mentors has focused on preparing students for academic success, but mentors also have had great success exposing students to cultural activities through visits to the museum, the Cincinnati Zoo and arts functions, says Keith Stringer, MD, faculty advisor for Med Mentors, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital pathologist and assistant professor in the UC College of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
"I think this is a good program,” notes Shawnie Williams, whose son Tre'Shawn, a sixth-grader at South Avondale School, received a laptop. "It’s going to be very helpful. He is an intelligent kid and has lots of projects. He didn’t have a laptop and he didn’t have access to a computer. This will help him a lot in his subjects, especially math. It’s going to go a long way and he’s excited and I am excited.”
Tre‛Shawn’s mentor is second-year medical student Michael Arnold.