UNMC's Community Academy celebrates 10 years

by Nicole Lindquist, UNMC public relations | August 12, 2009

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Sumit Kar, who works in the laboratory of Irving H. Zucker, Ph.D., was a member of the UNMC Community Academy from 7th through 12th grade. The community academy experience helped Kar decide to pursue a career in health care research. (Andrew E. Nelson/UNMC public relations)
Although still an undergraduate student at Creighton University, Sumit Kar has already built a solid research resume with his work as a lab technician for UNMC's Irving H. Zucker, Ph.D.

Kar has even won an award for his research on heart failure in Dr. Zucker's laboratory.

This early scientific success, Kar said, is directly related to his participation in Youth Learning Center's Community Academy, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this summer.

"Community Academy gave me a clearer picture of the different areas of medicine and the daily lives of those in the field in a way that convinced me a career in health care is something I really wanted to pursue," said Kar, who was in the Community Academy from 7th through 12th grade.

Community Academy introduces middle and high school students to careers in health sciences through hands-on learning activities conducted by UNMC faculty, staff, students and community volunteers.

The program also teaches important life skills such as leadership and communication, Kar said.

The academy's reach

Eight students attended the first UNMC Community Academy session during the summer of 1999. In the span of 10 years, Community Academy has served more than 1,000 students from diverse backgrounds from schools throughout the Omaha metro area and surrounding towns.

"When I started in 7th grade, I was very shy," Kar said. "Community Academy gave me the opportunity to serve as president of the Student Advisory Group during my senior year and because of that I am now able to apply my leadership skills at work, school, and in other activities.

Kar currently participates as a mentor to Community Academy students twice a month. After he graduates, he hopes to attend medical school at UNMC and pursue an M.D./Ph.D. that will allow him to have a career in both research and clinical work.

Other Community Academy Health Science Exploration activities include:

  • Student Advisory Group;
  • Monthly Volunteer Project;
  • Academic Lending Library;
  • College Night;
  • Mentoring and Tutoring Sessions;
  • National Youth Service Day; and
  • Self-Enhancement Seminars.