HealthQuest campers take aim at their dreams

Thinking you found your dream job is a powerful feeling. Finding out for sure changes everything

Dena Iadanza first fell in love with physical therapy at age 11 when hip issues forced her to receive treatment from a physical therapist. During her sessions, Iadanza watched practitioners work up close and admired how they helped their communities and stayed active. She was so interested in the profession she researched it online to learn as much as she could.

Now a rising 10th grader in Vestal, NY, Iadanza is still interested physical therapy but wasn’t 100 percent sure what she wanted to do when she got to college. That is until earlier this summer.

Iadanza was one of 30 high school students who came to Ithaca College in July to test-drive their health science aspirations at HealthQuest. The camp, now in its 10th year, is sponsored by the Ithaca College School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, the Central New York Area Health Education Center (CNYAHEC) and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and offers students an opportunity to try out health science careers while they receive instruction from IC faculty.

Now that she’s tried physical therapy first hand, there’s no more debate about what she’ll focus on in college. Iadanza is sold.

“I want to be a physical therapist even more now,” Iadanza said.

Experiences like this are valuable, according to Iadanza. Back in Vestal, she often struggles to find other students interested in health science careers. At HealthQuest, she not only learned about fields like physical therapy, occupational therapy, medicine, gerontology, nutrition, and recreation and leisure studies but she met other people her age who had the same goals.

“Not a lot of people get the chance to do this,” Iadanza said. “You get the chance to see it and you learn a lot more about the jobs.”

Rachel Dise, a rising senior, also came to HealthQuest to figure out what she wanted to do in college and said the seminars and hands-on activities helped her narrow it down. She particularly enjoyed visiting the Racker Center where campers provided physical therapy to children with disabilities.

Dise worked with one child who couldn’t walk before she started treatment. Now, she can walk and even climb up steps.

“It’s really rewarding being able to see the change from the beginning and what everyone has accomplished,” Dise said.

Sessions at HealthQuest varied from introductory to in-depth, depending on the students’ knowledge of the field. Ithaca College professor Julie Dorsey said for professions like occupational therapy, it was important to start at the beginning which meant providing students with a simple definition.

During her session, Dorsey helped explain occupational therapy by asking students to consider how a physical disability could prohibit them from doing something they loved.

"We broke down some of the activities and had them think about all the skills that are required,” Dorsey said. “Then we think about some creative ways to get people back to doing those tasks.”

Dorsey said the exercise explained what occupational therapists did while making it relevant to the students.

In addition to the seminars, campers also participated in team building activities led by their counselors.

Mike Fitzpatrick, an Exercise and Sport Sciences graduate student at IC and HealthQuest counselor, said campers were encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and work with people in new environments, both of which are valuable skills to health science professions.

“When it boils down to it it’s all about working with people,” Fitzpatrick said. “So being able to develop those skills to where you can walk into a room where you don’t know anybody and start making friends is crucial.”

Fitzpatrick said he thinks his campers learned a lot during the camp. In fact, he wished he had attended HealthQuest when he was in high school.

“I think that would’ve been a really good experience,” Fitzpatrick said. “When I was in high school trying to figure out what to do, I think I changed my career path four or five times. So having something like HealthQuest where I could ask questions and try out different paths would’ve been really helpful.”



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