Inspiring High School Students to Become Future OTs
April 17, 2019
One of my goals as an Ambassador has been to increase awareness about occupational therapy. In order to do so, we decided to reach out to high school students, as I often hear that people would have pursued OT a lot sooner if they had known it was an option. I’ve been lucky enough to present to a couple of high schools now, and the experiences have been both rewarding and challenging. When presenting to high school students, we really have to adapt the way that we approach them. We often present to pre-health clubs or OT-specific clubs as part of our job, therefore we go into our presentation with the understanding that these students already have an interest in OT or in a healthcare profession. Oftentimes, the students have already been thinking about graduate school and pursuing higher education, therefore we know we can tailor our presentation in a specific way. High school students, on the other hand, come from a variety of backgrounds, have different plans and aspirations, and varying interests. They are more difficult to engage, and may or may not be voluntarily attending our presentations. Before my first presentation to one of the high schools, I kept thinking to myself, “How am I going to engage them?! How am I going to give them all of this important information without putting them to sleep?!”
In an attempt to get some guidance, I approached one of my professors who had also given a talk to a group of high school students recently, and she gave me some great tips. The one that stuck out to me the most was her tip on making it RELEVANT to the students, which made total sense. I have since tried to find ways to make my presentation relatable, such as giving the students some information about my own journey, my experiences as an athlete (as there are often many athletes that attend these presentations), and what it has meant to me to be a first-generation graduate student using my bilingual skills in Los Angeles. I also like to take different types of adaptive equipment and sensory toys to show them how they are used, and why they are relevant in our profession. This gives them some interactive opportunities where they get a glimpse into what we do as well as an opportunity to ask questions. Lastly, I always like to take GIVEAWAYS. Nothing gets a group of high school students more excited than some free stuff they get to take home, and I think it’s a nice token to remind them of our presentation.
Fortunately, the students I have presented to thus far have been courteous and kind, albeit shy in the beginning. They seem receptive to the information we have to offer, and I have even gotten emails from students that are now interested in pursuing careers in OT! I’m so grateful I have had the opportunity to spread the word about our amazing profession and our wonderful program here at USC, and I look forward to the short time I have left in this position to continue doing so! If you ever have questions about recruitment or anything else in general, feel free to reach out!