Loma Linda, California, United States | DonaJayne Potts

Local underrepresented minority high school students were inspired to achieve more and serve others after participating in an immersive two-week learning experience through Loma Linda University Health’s Summer Gateway program.

Summer Gateway aims to create positive attitudes toward healthcare professions among high school students through presentations, activities and service opportunities. 

A variety of LLUH professionals and students volunteered their time to provide lectures and to assist with hands-on activities. This summer, nearly 70 students participated in the program and 21 were selected to shadow practicing medical professionals for an additional week. 

Launched in 2012, Summer Gateway is sponsored by the office of Community-Academic Partners in Services (CAPS) and the Institute for Community Partnerships. It was created when pipeline program Sí Se Puede merged with Loma Linda University’s other programs for Native American and African-American students. Sí Se Puede, which started in 2005, translates from Spanish as “Yes you can!” 

The program also provides training on how to take the SAT exam, apply for financial aid and improve study skills. 

“We’re wanting to help make college education more attainable for these young people,” said CAPS Director Pablo Ariza. “We know our pipeline program is a success because it continues to come full circle.” Loma Linda University’s 2018 commencement season saw two previous Summer Gateway program participants graduate with degrees in physical therapy and dentistry.

Pablo Shul of Bloomington High School said he didn’t think he could ever succeed academically, but after attending Summer Gateway he now knows a medical education is within his reach. “I actually have hope for my future,” he said.

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians comprise approximately one-quarter of the total population of the United States but represent less than 10 percent of the workforce in the health professions of medicine, nursing, dentistry and pharmacy. 

“The critical time for career intervention is before high school graduation,” said Juan Carlos Belliard, PhD, MPH, director of Loma Linda University Health’s Institute for Community Partnerships. “Summer Gateway Program encourages underserved students to achieve more for themselves, their families and their community.”

Antoina Davis, a student from Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo, California, said she didn’t know what it meant to be a nurse or dentist prior to participating in Summer Gateway. “This program helped me visualize what it means to enter the medical field and find your passion.”

In addition to academic and career guidance, students participate in activities that promote physical activity, nutrition, spiritual care and community service. 

On the program’s Service Day, students were split up into groups to serve at three different community locations. “We chose service opportunities for the students that would demonstrate LLUH’s model of whole-person care,” said CAPS Program Coordinator Oscar Bustillos.

One group of students volunteered at Huerta del Valle, the city of Ontario’s first urban community farm. Initiated in 2010, this grassroots agricultural effort has become a hub for sustainable organic production and distribution, community health and economic development and nutrition education. 

At the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County headquarters, students worked at a foodbank center that disperses over 10 million pounds of nutritious food each year in San Bernardino County.  

The Way World Outreach in San Bernardino was the last volunteer site. Opened in 2004, this church-turned-outreach-center provides aid and support services to abused women and children, individuals with special needs and the homeless and unemployed. 

Cajon High School student Hector Trejo said that after community service day his eyes were opened. “Loma Linda University Health dramatically changed me as a person,” he said. “I am inspired be to be a better person and become a humanitarian.”

Middle College High School student Jocelyn Marquez said she learned that a medical career is not just about the money, it’s about the people you’re caring for. “I will carry that thought with me for the rest of my life,” she said.