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'Start Out' Attracts Multicultural Bilingual Teens to Nursing

As the nation struggles with a severe shortage of health care professionals, a new Seattle-area initiative is attracting multicultural bilingual teens to nursing. Explains Associate Professor of Family and Child Nursing Cathy Strachan Lindenberg, Start Out is an eight-week summer program that integrates life planning and mentorship, nursing assistant training, and college application help while providing stipends and work study opportunities.

The program began in summer 2002, the year after the leaders of the nonprofit Sea Mar Community Health Centers broached the idea to nursing officials at the University of Washington and South Seattle Community College. UW School of Nursing involvement has included recruitment and mentoring of the teens by undergraduate nursing students and Lindenberg's leadership.

Start Out's success-24 out of 27 enrollees last year passed the Certified Nursing Assistant exam-has excited her and other project collaborators. Says Nina Laboy, director of the City of Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP), "this collaboration has specifically provided greater opportunities for disadvantaged people of color."

Lindenberg sees opportunities for expansion. "We hope to integrate the program into an after-school academic calendar program for 30 seniors annually," she says. And in summer 2003, funding from the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County and SYEP will enable Start Out to double, enrolling 50 low-income youth, ages 17 to 21, primarily from south Seattle.