Students at Newport High are learning about the impact they can make on the world. “We are the change we want to see in the world” said ASPEN member Hasan Mangrio during a presentation by Newport’s ASPEN class to visiting Pakistani health delegates. The health delegates visited Newport on October 9, as part of an exchange program aimed at learning about America’s public health policies and practices. ASPEN is Newport’s advanced health course about HIV/AIDS/abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases including their treatment, symptoms, and most importantly, their prevention. The course is peer-to-peer education.
Students presented five abbreviated lessons to the visitors. The lessons used visuals and analogies to simplify the complex topics. For example, the students leading the diversity lesson asked the group to separate a package of Smartees candy into color groups. The student instructors then asked the group how Smartees are like people. One student responded “Smartees are like people because you made us group them and people tend to group themselves with people that are alike.”
The Pakistani health delegates responded positively to the students’ presentations. One visitor commented “if you simplify the thing then it’s easier for common man to understand. So you really have done a great job in these role plays.” She also acknowledged that the students are in the position to make a difference in this world. Because of their energy and drive, students have an edge over older generations to impact change, according to the delegate.
ASPEN instructor Barbara Velategui provided some background and her experiences with teaching the program. “For me the greatest payoff in doing the program is to watch their confidence bloom. Our students are very, very effective public speakers after they’ve done this. They are very confident in their own knowledge and skills,” said Velategui. She went on to say that ASPEN students apply their skillset from the class post-graduation for careers in teaching, research, doctors and global health. The peer education model was something Velategui developed because she knew the students were “passionate about what they were doing. They really were thirsty for the knowledge. They wanted to be in that role,” she said. The curriculum has been taught now for 21 years, with more than 600 students completing the program.
The delegates’ trip to visit the U.S. was an opportunity for them to learn how to better raise awareness and impact change in Pakistan. Specifically, the delegates focused on polio eradication in Pakistan; a country where some choose to reject polio treatment due to personal, political or religious beliefs. One delegate said “we are doing our very best to educate the people over there to create awareness among them so we can eradicate this disease from the face of the earth.” The delegates visit to Newport was insightful in helping them develop their curriculum for raising awareness about health concerns in Pakistan.