Staten Island, NY | A tour through the Sports & Recreation Center on the campus of the College of Staten Island these days is yielding a Sports Medicine team that’s a little younger than your average health care team on a college campus. That’s because for the past few months, students from New Dorp High School’s Institute of Health Sciences have been on hand with CSI Head Athletic Trainer Alyson Ocasio and her team at the Willowbrook school, tending to the needs of CSI’s 200 student-athletes, getting first-hand, in-the-field knowledge of what it takes to be an Athletic Trainer at the College level. The partnership is part of CSI Athletics’ involvement in Staten Island’s 30,000 Degrees Initiative, aimed at preparing students on Staten Island for college readiness, and part of a series of collaborations that CSI has with New Dorp High School.
The brainchild of New Dorp High School Assistant Principal for the Institute of Health Sciences and Athletic Director Richard Rucireto seven years ago, the Institute of Health Sciences at NDHS has adopted an internship program overseen by New Dorp Athletic Trainer Amanda Kane, who is the only full-time High School Athletic Trainer on Staten Island, another product of the evolving program. Kane also teaches Biology and Rehabilitation Science at the school. Partnering with Staten Island’s JAG-ONE Physical Therapy, the Institute sees some 400 New Dorp students participating in a curriculum that aids students who are seeking a future in the health sciences or medical field post-graduation. Kane, a former Athletic Trainer with One-on-One Physical Therapy, who has worked on the CSI campus before for intercollegiate contests, was thrilled of the idea of bringing seniors in the Institute out in the field, and the College of Staten Island campus was the first stop.
“I think creating this relationship with CSI has been exceptional for our students,” said Kane, who has been a part of the program for the last five years. “It’s opening our kids up to some experience and opportunities that they would never see in the classroom. It gives them first-hand and visual insight in a highly-competitive and athletic environment, and they come back incredibly motivated and excited for their potential futures in the industry.”
Currently, the College is working with five out of the 27 New Dorp students in the Institute of Health Science program. The cohort spends would-be classroom time one day a week at CSI, and are on-hand outside school hours during CSI practices and varsity competitions. Upon return to their campus, the students are tasked with reports and projects centered around their learning and earn credits towards graduation. Many students are parlaying their study in post-graduation scholarships for college.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Physical Therapist, and once I got into this program I knew that it would benefit me,” said Kaitlyn Alavarces, a senior in the Institute of Health Sciences program at New Dorp. “The hands-on work with Alyson is helping me learn so much more about the human body while having more interaction with people. The internship program is a great opportunity because I feel it is giving me a head start in the profession.”
Kane agrees that the program and collaboration with CSI is instrumental to the growth of the students in the New Dorp program. “It’s a totally different side of Sports Medicine that they typically don’t see,” said Kane. “Most high school students have a general sense of what the health industry offers, but their time at the College of Staten Island expands their knowledge and gives them a more focused and concentrated vision on the profession. The students are feeling very connected to CSI. They don’t just shadow the staff, they engage and get to ask questions. They are welcomed and are truly enjoying the experience and many of them are looking forward to attending CSI for the exceptional Nursing and Physical Therapy programs that are housed there.”
The rewards of the experience gained by the students at New Dorp are evident, but Ocasio is quick to mention how the partnership has aided her and the Sports Medicine team at CSI as well.
“It has been a pleasure to have the students from the Institute of Health Sciences assist with the daily set up and chores of the Athletic Training Room,” said Ocasio. “As a high school student, I believe this opportunity is beneficial in seeing a different side of the Sports Medicine field that many people would not have the chance to see up close. The Institute of Health Sciences students observe all treatments and have the opportunity at the end of the day to ask questions in regards to specific injuries.”
For now, CSI is the first college that has teamed with New Dorp with this venture. It’s a bond that will continue according to CSI Director of Athletics Charles Gomes, who credits the team at CSI and the officials at NDHS for growing the idea into a thriving relationship and another bridge in the 30,000 Degrees system.
“Special thanks to Principal DeAngelis and President Fritz for creating this partnership between New Dorp High School and CSI Athletics via the 30,000 degrees program,” said Gomes. “As the only public institution in Staten Island it means a great deal that we are able to create opportunities that are beneficial both to the high school students as well as our CSI student-athletes. I look forward to continuing this program well into the future.”
According to Kane, the Institute of Health Sciences is one that is only going to grow. “It’s obviously an industry that is growing and we see more and more students expressing an interest in the rehabilitative and physical therapy fields at an earlier age. Thankfully, we have sponsors and organizations who recognize that as well and so this partnership and our internship program is one that we expect to grow. The out-of-classroom experience is invaluable.”
“This is an opportunity that not many people get to do,” said Alavarces. “Since I’ve been a student the program has expanded so much and it just shows that the internships are having a great effect on our resumes for college and our future career. I’ve been enjoying it so far and am learning so much.”