Mary Mahoney students teach children about diabetes prevention
Several hands shot up when Janice Pettis, third-semester Health Science Center nursing student, asked a group of fifth-graders how many of them had family members or knew friends with diabetes.
The library at Bowden Elementary School was buzzing with questions from more than 100 fifth-graders who listened intently as members of the UTHSC Mary Mahoney Nursing Student Association talked to them about diabetes and how to prevent it. The nursing students visited Bowden Oct. 22.
Bowden Elementary, located on the East Side of San Antonio, is part of the San Antonio Independent School District, a district whose student population includes a large percentage of Hispanics and African-Americans — two ethnic groups that are at high risk for diabetes.
"We are grateful that the nursing students come out here to educate our children," said Willie Mae Taylor, Bowden principal. "They reinforce our nutritional and physical education programs. At the same time, they serve as role models who give our students new knowledge and self-esteem. The children look up to them."
Members of the Mary Mahoney Nursing Student Association led the children through a series of activities, including a dance routine, which demonstrated the importance of healthy nutrition and exercise in the prevention of diabetes.
"One, two, three, four …!" The children counted in unison as nursing student Angela Zuniga poured 14 teaspoons of sugar into a glass to demonstrate the amount of sugar contained in a can of soda.
Nursing student Rose Chin, who was dressed as a carrot, aroused the most laughter from the crowd as she lethargically jumped rope in her cumbersome costume. The children took turns jumping rope as Chin explained the importance of daily physical activity.
The presentation made an impact on ten-year-old Daniel Garcia, who said his father and grandmother are diabetics.
"I learned a lot about type I and type II diabetes. It's [diabetes] not like a cold that just goes away." Garcia said. "But they [nursing students] showed us what foods are good to eat and what foods are bad so that we can keep from getting it."
Mary Atkerson, Bowden's school nurse, said the nursing students played a large part in inspiring her to establish the Bowden Future Nurses Club at the school this year.
"The purpose of the club is to increase our students' scientific knowledge and to introduce them to the health care professions," Atkerson said. "The children learn to understand that they can set their sights on going to college to become nurses or doctors."
Nine-year-old Ivy Laque is one of 12 fourth- and fifth-grade members of the Bowden Nurses Club.
"I want to be a nurse because I want to be able to teach people about things like diabetes," Laque said. "It will be fun to help other people so they don't get sick. Laque added that she has two brothers who will benefit from the information she learned from the Mary Mahoney nursing students.
At the end of their presentation, the nursing students presented Bowden Elementary School faculty and students with brand new sports equipment including two soccer balls, four volleyballs, one basketball and two jump ropes. Each student also received a basic nutrition guide and a goody bag filled with healthy snacks.
Pettis, president of the Mary Mahoney Nursing Student Association, said that both the children and the nursing students benefit from the experience.
"We enjoy the fact that we are giving back to the youth of the community," Pettis said. "Sometimes as adults, we forget that there are children looking up to us. That is why it is so important for us to be positive examples to them. One of the goals of medical professionals is to help prevent disease. We are working to keep our society healthy in the long run by educating our youth today." Students in the Mary Mahoney Nursing Student Association have visited Bowden to mentor the students and teach them about various science and health-related topics for the past 10 years.
The association, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, was established in honor of Mary Mahoney, the first African-American professional nurse in the United States. The purpose of the organization is to foster an academic environment that will enhance the recruitment and retention of African-American students into school and into the nursing profession.