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Molding Young Minds for the Future: Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy

When young students come from a life of relative privilege, their task is to learn empathy and understanding of the challenges of living in poverty. At Spectrum Health Innovations (SHI), we pride ourselves on our work with the bright young minds of area students. While much of our collaboration is with local college and university students, at the GVSU Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA), we work with high school students who range in age from 13 to 18.

TESA is a five-day academy that brings together students from across Michigan. Student teams develop business ideas into finished concepts that, on the final day of the academy, are presented to a panel of local business professionals, competing for monetary prizes. The 2016 TESA student teams addressed the lack of access to health care and how it impacts the health and wellness of low-income families and individuals who live in poverty. Thirty-six students participated from 23 West Michigan high schools.



The Problem: Understanding the Effect of Poverty on Well-being


TESA is a program offered through the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI) at Grand Valley State University to give high school students the tools and knowledge to start their own business through a week-long crash course in entrepreneurship. During the five-day program, students work with college faculty, current GVSU students and mentors from the community to solve real-world problems. Shorouq Almallah, director for CEI, describes the problem with which students were challenged: “According to some of the major health organizations in the world, poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor health. The Challenge for TESA 2016 applicants was to develop a product or service concept that will take an inefficient system (poverty or health and wellness) and find a sustainable solution.” Students first participated in a poverty simulation. In groups that represented families dealing with poverty, each team was challenged to meet basic needs on a low income within a short time frame. Once the simulation was complete, the students took a trip to Spectrum Health Innovations to hear a panel of health care professionals talk about the health issues people in poverty face.


The Challenge: Health Is More Than the Absence of Disease


Mark Lubberts, RN, MSN, manager, Community Health Education, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities, was one of several panelists from Spectrum Health. Other panelists represented Priority Health, the School of Nursing at GVSU and the Center of Integrative Medicine at Spectrum Health. “The focus of our panel was centered primarily around social determinants of health and the barriers so many of our patients have,” Lubberts Chandler_2016Jun27_1411says. “We often think of the physical elements of health without considering the social and mental elements that can have a stronger influence on a patient’s overall health. Framing the week at TESA with this in mind allowed the students to consider the environment people live in, the social structure surrounding us and how changes in policy can make a difference.” Lubberts explained to the students how decisions in health care are often made based on the majority. That kind of mindset in decision making can leave out those who do not fit the middle-class socioeconomic status. “The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age,” Lubberts says. “These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources. It is the social determinants of health that are mostly responsible for health inequities, the unfair and avoidable differences in health status.”


The Spectrum Health Innovations Solution: Seeking Answers for Equity in Health Care


Students learned from listening to the panel that much more than finances (or lack thereof) come into play in determining a person’s health and access to health care. Other determinants include: behavior (40 percent), genetics (30 percent), socioeconomic factors (15 percent) and environment (5 percent). Most important of all, the students gained empathy for those who are challenged daily by living in poverty. At the end of the week, student teams presented their business concepts to a panel of judges. Mike Czechowskyj, MSN, RN, PCCN, CNML, clinical innovation specialist, Spectrum Health Innovations, was one of the judges. Ravel Bowman, George Ebeling, Abigail Johandes, Alicia Mendez and Jennifer Puente took home first prize and $2,500 for Time to Get Fresh, a business that would use the school bus system to provide children qualifying for free or reduced lunch with fresh produce and recipes. Sofia Alfaro, Genevieve Doyle, Benjamin Janes, Miranda Pablo and Jaspreet Singh were awarded second place and $1,500 for Crane Care, a business that would equip elementary schools with health care clinics. Nicholas Baran, Michaela Gheorghiu, Joey Paliwoda, Alex Plouff and Allison Smart received third place and $1,000 for A New Page, a company that would hire medical social work students to address mental health care in prisons.





“Having SHI as a partner and sponsor was incredibly valuable, because it gave us access to a dynamic and very knowledgeable panel of health care experts. It was great to have the students get that immersive experience by actually visiting the SHI space and working there for half a day to tackle the problem identification and ideation part of the camp.” Shorouq M. Almallah, director, Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Grand Valley State University

“The biggest value in my eyes of Spectrum Health Innovations’ participation in TESA is to help as many people as possible gain more understanding about the barriers people have when we look at social determinants of health.” Mark Lubberts, RN, MSN, manager, Community Health Education, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities

“This camp is my favorite camp of the summer. I did it last year and decided to come back because I learned so much. The experiences and lessons I’ve learned I will keep forever. I can’t wait until next year.” Student participating in TESA 2016



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