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CCISD Health Career Students Experience Empathy with Age Simulation Suits

AGNES Chloe 2Hancock, Michigan—Last fall, the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) of the Keweenaw Community Foundation (KCF) announced that $600 had been awarded to the Copper Country Intermediate School District’s (CCISD) Health Careers Program. The YAC grant provided the opportunity for the CCISD program to create empathy suits and age related experiences inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Age Gain Now Empathy System (AGNES) suit. The project was part of $15,100 that was awarded to seven local organizations from the Kellogg Youth Endowment Fund as part of its Fall 2015 granting cycle. These grants supported projects that benefited youth in grades 6-12 in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties.

The AgeLab at MIT designed AGNES to simulate the impact of aging by limiting mobility, altering vision, balance and touch, and impairing hearing. The YAC grant provided the opportunity to create suits inspired by AGNES for wearing during activities of daily living. Some of the activities included buttoning a shirt, using a cell phone, and managing medications. Performing the tasks in the suit proved a more challenging experience than students expected. The area high school students found the normally easy activities to be more difficult and frustrating as an older adult. After reflecting on their experiences, students realized that there was a greater need for empathy, not only in their clinical practices, but in life as well.

“One of the grant goals was to provide experiences that would promote empathy in the students’ clinical settings,” said Teresa Shoup of CCISD. “In this respect, the grant was successful. Even more impressive, however, was that students reflected on the need for empathy in all aspects of their lives.”

The project was chosen for funding by Keweenaw Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council because it addressed an area of need highlighted by the Youth Needs Survey. Conducted in Fall 2014, the survey collected responses from students in grades 7-12 at local area schools. It found that depression, drug abuse, and harassment represented the greatest challenges to local youth. The survey also asked teens which youth programs would be beneficial to youth in the community. The majority of teens were interested in after-school activities, skill building classes, career development, leadership building, and health programs. The full survey results are posted on the KCF website: http://keweenawcommunityfoundation.org/who-we-are/youth-advisory-council/

KCF’s YAC was developed and supported by the Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth Project to spread youth philanthropy in the state, an initiative that was launched by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the community foundation members of Council of Michigan Foundations. Today, there are over 1,500 young people serving on 86 youth grantmaking committees statewide. Endowment fund assets exceed $62 million and collectively give $1.5 million in grants per year. KCF’s YAC alone has granted nearly $150,000 in funds since its inception.

For more information on giving or grant opportunities, please visit the KCF website (www.keweenawgives.org) or email mail@k-c-f.org. The next funding round is planned for Fall 2016.

Through philanthropic services, strategic investments and community leadership, Keweenaw Community Foundation helps people support the causes they care about, now and for generations to come. For more information on Keweenaw Community Foundation and how to give, visit its website at www.keweenawgives.org.

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