Dual MPAP/MSPH Candidate Kayla Manring helping and inspiring at-risk youth

Kayla Manring (’21 MPAP/MSPH Candidate) shares her practicum experience. Here’s her story:

This spring semester I worked alongside Lauren Grant, the student advocate for Cleveland High School in Johnston County. I have always been interested in youth so this practicum aligned perfectly with my interests. Lauren works with kids whose grades, attendance or social lives struggle. Cleveland has a program called RAM Academy where kids are able to complete school online. Some of these kids are not able to function in a normal classroom, some must have a job to support themselves, and others need to be online so that they can finish classes they did not previously pass. Through my practicum I was able to spend time with, help motivate, and see glimpses of change in some of these high school students.

I was very fortunate growing up and enjoyed school. Through my practicum I was able to see another kind of student. Students who do not care about school, but who care about an immediate job, students who are relying on extended family members and friends for housing, students who have had trouble with the law. The at risk program at Cleveland aims to help these struggling students find a way to succeed. I have tried to share with each kid that your education will take you places, that it is worth finishing, and that they can do it.

On the first day of my practicum Lauren was collecting food for a student who was in need and I asked how counselors get the funds to provide food. She simply said, “our pockets.” This initial conversation led me to thinking and the thought of a food drive began. In March I contacted a Food Lion about my thought and they had already planned their own food drive that they wanted to give to the community – the vision was becoming a reality. By the end of April, Food Lion and the Johnston County community had helped raise enough food to fill a car and then some to give to the school.

Throughout the semester I had heard of various kids discipline problems, a lot relating to drug use. The staff suggested information sharing details on substances and I was able to connect with a few guest speakers to come speak to kids and parents on substances. Although the turnout was not what I had hoped for, a mom did comment on how she wished everyone could have heard their talk. It made me feel good that there was a positive comment, but also wish that the turnout had been better.

This practicum allowed me to connect with students and try to open their mind to continue in school so their overall future would improve. I was able to see all the resources schools have and see where there might be future needs. I am thankful that I got to work alongside Lauren and the other members of the Student Services team. They give and care so much for their students. Their quick conversations sometimes sparked change and the student saw a community member believed in them. In my future career, I plan to use this experience when I interact with children to ensure that I ask about their education and other factors outside of the initial patient encounter.