Community Health Nursing Seniors Challenged to Design Holistic Wellness Project
EDINBURG—Most UTPA seniors imagine their last semester of college as the semester they coast to the finish line. Not so for 68 UTPA students enrolled in Community Health Nursing 4404. These students were faced with the daunting task of organizing a wellness fair in less than six weeks.
Faculty member Nancy Nadeau describes the service learning project as one that is student driven in that she and other faculty members teaching the course have to empower the students so that they can empower the community. Class members have weekly conference meetings to ensure the flow of communication and are required to prepare teaching projects which will benefit the selected community.
Class members chose to organize themselves into 6 groups, each assigned a component of the health fair, including procurement of vendors, entertainment, and publicity for the event held on October 13. John Hickman, nursing senior, describes the challenges of coordinating an event of this magnitude, “Because the big picture is overwhelming, delegation of tasks is vital.” For example, though the wellness fair included 50 vendors, two weeks prior to the event, fewer than ten had been confirmed.
Karina Acosta, nursing senior, concurs with Hickman and describes collaboration as the key to success. Each class member had to count on other groups completing their assignment and had to be flexible. One example is the set-up time on the day prior to the event. Class members assumed they would have at least a half day to set up at Monte Cristo Elementary, the site of the wellness fair. Instead, the class was limited to two hours.
The service learning activity focused on meeting the needs of an Edinburg neighborhood community of less than five blocks on North Doolittle Road near Monte Cristo Elementary. The project involved multiple levels of assessment in that students first assessed the needs of the community and then wrote a paper on the needs of one family within that community. Each level of assessment amplified the needs of the selected community and determined the scope of vendors invited to the fair.
Faculty member Juana Cantu-Cabrera, who introduced the project after 9-11, states that the activity requires students to use a holistic approach to community wellness. At a wellness fair, one would expect vendors providing flu shots and immunizations. However, this year’s fair also included pet vaccinations, massages, and haircuts provided at no charge from students enrolled at University of Cosmetology, Arts, and Sciences (UCAS). After many years of supervising the coordination of the event, Cantu-Cabrera is still surprised at the variety of vendor ideas generated by students in the since the initial goal of the event was only to provide flu shots.
The outcomes of the fair stretch out into the future. Though the primary focus of the fair is wellness, the effects are broader in scope. Faculty Member Cindy L. Milan emphasized the importance of these nursing students as role models, not only for the children but also for the adults in the community, some of whom might one day be UTPA students.
Perhaps, along with community members, those most impacted are nursing students enrolled in the course. With approximately 106 Doolittle area attendees, 359 attendees from the city of Edinburg, and 244 community members from across the Valley at the event, Hickman was amazed at the number of people that could be helped over a period of five hours. Acosta was impressed at the impact of collaboration and best sums up the success of the project with her statement, “It’s hard to take that first step in a society all about me-me-me. It’s therapeutic to do something for someone that has a need and see that process from beginning to end.”
For more information on service learning and other volunteer activities, contact Jeanette Broshears, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Life and Transition Services, at 381-2659.
Story contributed by Staff Senator Terrie Garcia