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Hooper: Fueling dreams and enhancing aspirations

Leah Coleman's dreams of becoming a pharmacist were fueled by watching her mother and sister buy asthma medicine.

She wondered how a little pill could make such a big difference.

Josie Little called her dad one day and asked him to bring home Freud's The Interpretation Of Dreams.

Now she longs to become a psychiatrist.

Erin Ravenel once fancied an athletic career, but after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue condition, she sought a new path.

She sees nursing in her future.

Do these high school students know what it takes to reach these lofty goals? Dreams have to be nurtured with preparation and encouragement. Faith without works is dead.

Tampa physician Dexter Frederick knows all too well the importance of enhancing aspirations. In his own life, people helped support his dreams of being a doctor, so now he looks to give back in a meaningful way with a unique program: Brain Expansion Scholastic Training, or B.E.S.T.

Operating out of East Tampa, the not-for-profit aims to uplift and mentor underrepresented youth who aspire to be health professionals.

"A lot of them have the dreams and they have the aspirations, but they may never have had or seen a family member who knows what it takes," Frederick said. "So No. 1, we want to show them what it takes. No. 2, we want to inspire them and keep that inspiration going."

The year-round program, which has grown to include more than 50 middle and high school students, works to provide information about health careers, sharpen memorization skills and heighten critical thinking through chess.

A special summer program went even further during the last seven weeks.

Participants received college preparedness lessons through Know How 2 Go Tampa Bay and business acumen from a WEDU program called Biz Kids. It also provided lessons on nutrition, anatomy and dissections while touring health care facilities and going on fun field trips.

If it sounds like a lot, well, that's the point. Frederick likes to say no wasted time, talent or information.

Area Health Education Centers and the University of South Florida College of Medicine facilitate the brain expansion as two of the top sponsors. USF's participation is particularly noteworthy because students volunteer to help tutor and mentor the kids. Frederick calls it a win-win.

"The kids need to see someone who is in college, where they will be someday," Frederick said. "The USF students need to see the need in the field and the need to be sensitive to the fact that there are disparities."

On Tuesday, B.E.S.T. held its summer graduation along with Total Package, a similar program that combines science with sports. The enthusiasm of the kids peppered the ceremony and their presentations.

Coleman explained she knows now that pharmacists work in more than just CVS and Walgreens, Little can tell you exactly how many years it takes to become a psychiatrist, and Ravenel has upgraded her aspirations from nurse to nurse anesthetist.

Lofty dreams now have been infused with practical knowledge and real hope.

That's all I'm saying.

Hooper: Fueling dreams and enhancing aspirations 08/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 9:01pm]
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