Broadening horizons

Mentorship organization works to empower high school students

The connections start with conversation and, with time, are intended to develop into meaningful, empowering relationships.

Horizons, a student mentorship organization, fosters connections between students at Case Western Reserve University and students at MC2 STEM High School in an effort to create close-knit mentorship circles that are beneficial to all parties involved.

Since its founding in 2010, Horizons has included mainly medical students. Now, members are pushing for more undergraduate participation and are hoping to reach more high schools.

According to second-year student Pavan Krishnan, treasurer of the Undergraduate Executive Board, Horizons serves as a way for CWRU students to give back to the Cleveland community, support the academic aspirations of inner-city high school students and promote intellectual curiosity.

Horizons focuses on providing exposure to the health care field, particularly through problem-based learning, self-reflection and role model exposure.

“[The high school students] don’t have the best types of mentors,” said medical student Chris Donovan, the program director. “[We’re trying to] help these kids understand that they could go to college, that it’s very accessible, and there are a lot of options for them, particularly in the health field.”

The high school students are grouped with undergraduate students and medical students, and the group then works together over the course of two to three years. Members hope that the duration of the program promotes the growth necessary to forge close relationships between the students.

“The kids that we mentor … are incredibly bright,” Donovan said. “If we can help them along their way, I think they can do great things.”

Horizons offers high school participants the resources necessary to navigate through the college application process, including assistance with personal statements. Many of the program participants have moved on to college and several have plans to become health professionals in the future.

In addition to providing high school students with mentorship, Horizons also offers undergraduate members the opportunity to learn about the field of medicine from medical students. Premed students also receive advice about the medical school application process and gain insight into medical education.

“Having a med school mentor to be there and kind of guide you through this uncontrolled environment is very important,” Krishnan said. “I want to emphasize that it’s not just academically, but it’s also involving extracurriculars or anything that is in the realm of life in general.”

According to Donovan, the next step is for Horizons to expand its current undergraduate advising platform and create a group dynamic within the entire Horizons community, specifically through social media.

“One of our plans is to create an alumni network, and that entails creating more cohesive groups of students,” Krishnan said. “That is only achieved through close interactions and close bonding between students.”

Krishnan believes the alumni network will allow past and current members to interact and share their experiences with Horizons and reinforce the close mentorship relationships that make the organization unique. Toward that end, the group also plans to complete a longitudinal study to determine what it is doing for its members.

Although funding has been a challenge, Donovan says, the organization is grateful for the support it has received from the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation. The club hopes to eventually open membership to other underserved high schools in the Cleveland area, like John Hay High School.

“Just being there for someone really makes you understand the impact you can have, even as a medical student or as an undergrad,” Donovan said. “It changes a lot of people’s visions for what they can pursue in the future.”