This proposal adapts West Virginia’s successful SEPA-funded Health Sciences &
Technology Academy (HSTA) for the innovative purpose of building the pipeline of
students to STEM health-related fields including nursing, nurse faculty, nurse scientists,
and other biomedical fields from those underrepresented in the nursing workforce and
from underserved rural communities in Alabama. HSTA-Alabama will provide
professional development to teachers to build science content and pedagogical skills for
use with HSTA-Alabama students and to use in their classrooms. Through a focus of
addressing obesity in Alabama and its corresponding sequelae including cardiovascular
diseases, other risk behaviors, and opioid use prevention, using a citizen science
approach, we will mentor and facilitate professional preparedness of high school
students from underserved communities for college and careers in STEM fields, and in
particular into academic nursing and nursing science by empowering them to become
agents of change in their own communities.
This innovative project will replicate the successful Health Sciences & Technology Academy from West Virginia, with important adaptations for our purposes, in rural Alabama (AL). This adaption will be called Health Sciences & Technology Academy-Alabama (HSTA-AL). The long-term goal of this project is to build a more diverse nursing, nurse faculty, nurse scientist and other biomedical professions workforce from among rural, underserved, primarily African American, economically disadvantaged high school students in AL who will become the first in their families to graduate from college. This goal will be accomplished by implementing the HSTA-AL program to provide professional development to teachers designed to help teachers build science content and pedagogical skills. Teachers will then guide students toward STEM fields by helping them learn to conduct citizen science. These teachers can also transfer their learned skills for use in teaching other high school students. To teach research skills to teachers and students, we will focus on conditions including obesity and related cardiovascular conditions, risk behaviors, and opioid use that disproportionately affect underserved AL communities. It is anticipated that through HSTA-AL activities, health literacy will be built among the students and community members in these rural counties. The specific aims for this project are to 1. Establish community led leadership teams comprised of 100% community members in each rural county partner, and a joint leadership team for the state comprised of at least 51% community members to promote community ownership of the HSTA-AL program. 2. Provide annual professional development for 5 teachers and 5 preservice teachers per year across targeted communities for the purpose of promoting science and research skills for HSTA-AL and other students to increase the pipeline of high school graduates from rural areas into university STEM education, some of whom will choose nursing. 3. Provide summer camps annually for 50 students to promote interest and skills needed for engagement in citizen science addressing issues related to health disparities in rural AL and to promote exposure to the university environment, near-peer mentors, STEM education, nurses, nursing education opportunities, advanced nursing degrees, nursing science, and other biomedical professions. 4. Provide a club experience led by teachers for 95 high school students across 5 years for the purpose of exposing students to STEM fields in general, nursing, and nursing science by engaging students in community-based participatory research /citizen science addressing issues related to health disparities in their communities. 5. Compare the outcomes of HSTA-AL to HSTA for psychometric measures known to predict workforce development in biomedical fields to determine if replication of the HSTA program in a rural, primarily African American, economically disadvantaged population is feasible and effective. If HSTA-AL achieves similar outcomes to HSTA in West Virginia, we plan to expand this program across AL and seek funding to support HSTA-AL students’ college and graduate school education.