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Bill Cessato

Georgetown University's 'Pathways to Success' Program Secures $1.2 Million Grant

Effort encourages high school students from rural U.S. to pursue health, science at college level

Washington, D.C.—A new $1.2 million federal grant will support an innovative educational and community outreach program at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, according to principal investigator J.P. Hyatt, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the school’s Department of Human Science.

The three-year grant award from the Health Resources and Services Administration—a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—will underwrite the university’s Pathways to Success program, which was founded 2002.

During the past seven years, Pathways to Success has developed strong partnerships with rural and under-served communities in Colorado, Louisiana, and South Dakota. The program is geared toward high school juniors and seniors, encouraging them to pursue health, science, and technology at the collegiate level and acquainting them with the college admissions process.

Each summer, Georgetown hosts the students and their mentors for a free three-week session. While on campus, students have the opportunity to earn college credit while taking classes from university faculty. They take courses in the NHS Discovery Center—a modern research laboratory. They also work in the O’Neill Family Foundation Clinical Simulation Center at NHS—a fully equipped clinical lab that includes adult and pediatric patient simulators.

“Pathways students take college-level courses for Georgetown University credit that they can use at the university they ultimately choose to attend,” noted Hyatt. “Having this experience helps the students to convince colleges that they can handle college-level work and helps them remain competitive with peers who have had access to Advanced Placement coursework.”

Since its inception, the program has continued to flourish. The new HRSA funding builds upon several years of financial support from The Goldman Sachs Foundation, as well as initial funding from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health. A number of Pathways graduates have earned Gates Millennium and Quest-Bridge scholarships to use toward their college pursuits. Overall, the program has worked with approximately 125 high school students and mentors.

With the new HRSA grant, Hyatt said the effort can continue growing in innovative ways. The program will expand to six weeks of instruction—including two weeks on-line and four weeks on campus—and will increase the number of participating students to 42 from 30. Other ideas include:

     **Formalizing a mentorship initiative among current and former Pathways students.

     **Using social networking Web sites such as Facebook to stay in touch with the students when they are back in their home communities.

     **Developing a programmatic evaluation tool.

     **Examining “intergenerational closure,” a concept that looks at educational outcomes through the lens of the relationship parents have with their child’s friends’ parents. 

"HRSA has traditionally had an interest in rural areas of the country,” Hyatt said. “Pathways to Success is a perfect fit.”

Previous student participants have said that Pathways helped broaden their perspectives.

“It’s really been eye-opening,” Kaylee Sowards, of Manassa, Colo., told the campus publication Blue & Gray during her summer on-campus experience in 2008. “I’m from this little town in Colorado, so to get to come to Washington for three weeks and live in a dorm is something I wouldn’t have gotten to experience. It’s helping me think about what I want to do in college.”

Since his arrival to Georgetown in 2004, Hyatt has been an active faculty leader with the Pathways program, which was overseen by Charles H. Evans, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., who served as program director until his retirement as chair of the Department of Human Science.  NHS Dean Bette Jacobs, a member of the Cherokee nation, has helped build bridges with participating communities, particularly the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.

“One of the most profound educational disparities among these communities is in science education,” Jacobs said. “Pathways to Success builds upon Georgetown University’s diversity initiatives and helps create a diverse pipeline of students who are prepared for success at the college level.  Through professor Hyatt’s grant, we will take our investment in minority outreach to a new level.”

About the School of Nursing & Health Studies
Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies—a part of Georgetown University Medical Center—translates science into outcomes that benefit the public’s health. NHS lives its mission “to improve the health and well being of all people” through innovative educational and research programs. The school houses a multi-million dollar research portfolio and includes the Departments of Health Systems Administration, Human Science, International Health, and Nursing, as well as the Center on Health and Education and—in partnership with Georgetown University Law Center—the Linda and Timothy O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. Visit

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through our partnership with MedStar Health). Our mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis—or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), home to 60 percent of the university’s sponsored research funding.


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