CollegeQuest has brought 24 motivated students to the College of St. Joseph campus this summer.

CollegeQuest To Health Careers, a program of the Northeastern Vermont Area Health Education Center and the Vermont AHEC Network, is a six-week college-enrichment program with a focus on health care careers. The program, in its second year, is for students entering their senior year of high school, who are from families of modest income or first-in-family college students.

The program gives students a taste of dorm life while they work on four different curriculum tracks including: health careers exploration, human biology, and an introduction to college studies.  Health career themes covered during the program include lab sciences, geriatrics, pharmacy, emergency medicine, culturally responsive health care, dental care and mental health. There are five assistant directors from New England colleges that stay with the students in the dorms.

AHEC Executive Director Nicole LaPointe said the mission of CSJ and that of CollegeQuest are perfectly aligned.

“Both the Provider Scholarship and CollegeQuest aim to make degree attainment more likely for disadvantaged students,” LaPointe said.

CollegeQuest student Tegan Waite said one of her science teachers suggested she attend CollegeQuest to help her get a head start on her college education.

“We’re going to be really prepared to go to college,” Waite said.

This year’s iteration of CollegeQuest has been tweaked to make it more academically rigorous, based on feedback from last year’s group. Changes include an additional course and an increase in the amount of time students spend at Rutland Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, students tour and learn about the laboratories, and have opportunities to meet professional staff. They will also spend time in the physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, and speech and language therapy departments.

CollegeQuest student Michael Zartin said the experience he is gaining is valuable.

“It’s an opportunity to learn from serious professionals. Actually sitting down with these people to talk to them,” Zartin said.

LaPointe said this is a strong group attending this year’s CollegeQuest.

“We have a great bunch of students. High achieving, motivated,” LaPointe said. “The students came in with a tremendous vocabulary of health care. They are now beginning to make connections between the sessions and courses, and relating the material to a larger context.”

The program offers more than education on health care. It also serves as a trial run for the college experience. The program opens with talks about the differences between life in high school and life in college. LaPointe said they have seen a little anxiety and home sickness, but it has been really helpful to tell students that this is a chance to see how it feels to go away to school.

“It’s great to see what’s out there and dip our toes in the water,” said CollegeQuest student Marissa Lamoureux. “Now, we get to see if we want to go far away to college or stay close to home.”

Student Fardowsa Ibrahim said she knew she was interested in a career in health care, but didn’t know what the best field would be for her. She said CollegeQuest gives her an opportunity to explore different professions.

LaPointe said the program has funding for a third year in 2014, which gives them time to plan for sustainability. They are now exploring more funding options for the future.

Student Quinn LaCasse said this is the right program for students who are interested in health care.

“They should definitely do it. It’s been a great opportunity,” LaCasse said.

CSJ President Rich Lloyd said it is an honor to host CollegeQuest and its students on campus.

“We are proud to have these highly motivated students on our campus to dedicate six-weeks of their summer vacation to college and career exploration,” Lloyd said.