STEP Program Encourages Medical Professions

By Samar Syeda’15
Cha-ching! Cha-ching! That is the sound that parents of high school students could be hearing, after their child takes part in the High School Fellows Program (HSFP) at New York University Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). The program consists of free SAT prep classes, research in medical fields, and help in college preparation.
“The STEP High School Fellows Program is really a landmark in encouraging young people from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds to pursue careers in the medical professions,” said Mr. Carlos Restrepo, the director of the program. “It is giving the kids the necessary hands-on experience they are going to need in the future.”
The HSFP is a full year program, which is split into three semesters. The first semester, which is the spring semester, focuses mainly on prep classes in critical reading, writing and math for the SAT. The second semester, the summer semester, is more about getting some hands on experience in the medical field. The third and final semester is the fall semester, which completely focuses on the college application process.
“Just tell me when and where can I sign up,” said Neshma Simon’16 excitedly upon learning about the program.
This program was created 11 years ago because Mr. Restrepo compared students from low-income families and high-income families that continue their education to college. He noticed that students from low-income families rarely go to college because they’re not given the same opportunities and supplies that people from high-income families are given. Forming a program like this was a way of providing students coming from low-income families the necessary tools they need to get to college.
On February 8, the first semester of the 2014 HSFP commenced. The classes for this semester are scheduled for every Monday and Wednesday, from 5:00 p.m to 7:30 p.m, at the NYU Langone Medical Center. Monday is devoted to the critical reading and writing section of the SAT, and Wednesday is devoted to the math section. This semester started the same way it has been started for the past 11 years, with a mandatory diagnostic SAT. This test gave the students a sense of where they were with the SAT, and what their strengths and weaknesses were. Inboth classes, critical reading/writing and math, students were separated into five different groups, which were determined by their score on the diagnostic. Each group has about 10 to 15 people in it, and every group is taught by a different coach, all of whom are college students.
Some students feel that having actual licensed teachers as a coach is better than having college students, but coaches like Sharon Migdal, a critical reading/writing coach and a college freshman, makes those feelings disappear. Migdal believes that learning from people who took the SAT and applied to college recently is a great advantage because that way students can connect with coaches on a personal and intellectual level, instead of being taught by a “pretentious tutor who makes you feel dumb.”
Also, according to Daxter Tan, a coordinator of the program who has been working with it for two and a half years, the HSFP coaches have a 78 percent rate of increasing SAT scores compared to the average 34 percent.
This program is very beneficial, but at the same time it’s very time consuming as well. Donald Ceus’15, a student in the program, usually gets home between 9pm to 10 pm, and stays up till 1am to 2am just finishing homework.
“It’s a very stressful program,” said Ceus’15, “but at the end of the day, it’s a great program and you will get a lot out of it. Also the hard days are only from February to the end of April. In the summer, you don’t have school obligations to juggle with the program.”
After taking the SAT classes for four weeks, the students will have to take another diagnostic SAT, and will be re-grouped. This will all be in preparation for the SAT exam on May 3. Along with preparing for the SAT, during this semester students will also be practicing college readiness by writing their final personal statements for colleges. After nine weeks of long, after-school hours, the students of the HSFP will rewarded at an Awards Ceremony on April 30.
“So far I like it,” said Ishmath Celion’15 “I’ve gotten to meet new people and start putting real thought to the college process.”
After two months of break, the program continues; it is from July 1 to August 7, Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. This part of the program focuses on clinical and basic science research. Students will shadow NYULMC physicians, researchers, and other health care professionals for four weeks, two mornings per week. The rest of the time the students will participate in seminars on biomedical ethics, anatomy, neuroscience, health professions, statistics, community issues, and public health. During the semester, depending on the students’ topic of interest, they will be placed in small groups to create a community health research project, design and propose a solution, and present their research project in the form of a written proposal or report, oral, and poster presentation. To conduct their research on their topic, the students will be able enjoy field trips to colleges, professional schools and museums on Fridays.
“I can’t wait till the summer,” said Syeda Hiliary’15, “The summer part of the program is what interested me the most!”
After working hard over the summer, the students will meet at the NYULMC again. Although the final dates for the last semester aren’t set, it is said to be a little more than a two month long semester. This semester provides each student with a Medical Student Mentor who will provide guidance in various college preparatory activities (common application, personal statement, scholarship sources, choosing a major) and pre-medical exploration over the course of the semester.
“I would take part in this program most defiantly,” said Katherine Tsvetkov’16. “It’s hard for me to afford SAT prep and I’m very interested in the medical field. I know that it would be something that could benefit me greatly.”
All the coaches, program directors, teachers, and guidance counselors think that this is a great opportunity, and more students should participate, unfortunately that’s difficult to do. The HSFP is a selective program, and the few teachers all over the borough that receive an email about the program are the only ones who can offer their students this opportunity.
“Who wouldn’t want to take this opportunity if they knew about it,” said Laraib Zaman’15. “I want to go in a medical field and want to gain experience. It’s really nice that this program has SAT prep, medical internship, and it helps apply for college. The best part it’s free.”

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