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Viking CHAMPS Summer Camp Offers Health Care Immersive

VIKINGS CHAMPS SUMMER CAMP OFFERS HEALTH CARE IMMERSIVEHigh school students get a real-world look inside the medical field

Cleveland is a hotbed for some of the most well-known hospital systems in the country, and thanks to a unique three-week camp at Cleveland State University, local high school students got the taste of what it might be like to work for one and to hone their skills in healthcare.

The Vikings CHAMPS (Careers in Health and Medical Professions) Camp, held from June 12-30 at CSU, served as an introduction to a wide range of highly skilled careers in the health field, and more specifically, within the College of Health (including Public Health, Music Therapy, OT/PT, Exercise Science, Health Science, Medicine via clinical case studies, and Nursing).

Other activities included ACT Prep, CPR training (students were bestowed with their CPR card after camp), a dissection/suturing session, and various science labs ranging from chemistry and biology to physics.

The process of selecting students to attend began months before when Community Outreach Coordinator Shermelle Shaffer reached out to all the different high schools she works with – Cleveland Metropolitan School District, STEM schools, and outer ring schools – making them aware of the program.

The response was significant, with over 100 students applying.

The next step required them to submit an essay along with their GPA information and then have an interview to gauge their overall interest in the healthcare profession. After much deliberation, only 30 were selected.

VIKINGS CHAMPS SUMMER CAMP OFFERS HEALTH CARE IMMERSIVE“Some students might not know what they want to do,” said Shaffer. “But our goal is really to get them the exposure to the different health disciplines, but ultimately, we would love for them to become physicians.”

According to the executive director of Pathways to Practice at CSU, Dr. Timothy McKnight, the overall goal was to expose the kids to the various healthcare options within CSU studies and the workplace.

“This was the first year of our collaboration with the Pratt Center in a relationship developed by [Shermelle] Shaffer, and we are so excited to build upon our relationship,” he said. “We had nine Pratt Center kids who are former Sullivan-Deckard Scholars, and two were student workers for the camp.”

The collaboration with the Pratt Center is fantastic one, working with students who are aging-out of foster care who often then attend Cleveland State.

“The cool thing is I was introduced to [director] Jarett Pratt, [and] with that introduction, I told him what we do, and we were both on fire talking about things such as needing our students to be a part of the program,” said Shaffer.

“So, Dr. McKnight and I worked together and held those seats for those students to be able to participate in our summer Viking CHAMPS program.”

The final day was full of pomp, circumstance and excitement, with students presenting a clinical case study with the final and correct diagnosis. In addition, representatives from the Cleveland Clinic were on-hand to discuss various healthcare options, including Respiratory therapy, Pathology Assistant, and cardiac sonography.


“We had a great breakfast, [along with] parents and grandparents being there, and then students from the Pratt Center came over to our building (the IM building),” said Shaffer. “We just had some fun, including popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream, and a DJ, so it was just to celebrate our students and [tell them] great job!”


Along with the enthusiasm around the 3-week camp, Shaffer was informed of some incredible news that CSU can be proud of.

“The Director from the Ohio Reach post-secondary designation [and] the chancellor has charged institutions to become foster-friendly,” she said.

“[And], as a result, CSU will be the first in the state [to carry that distinction]; the collaboration of Pathways to Practice with the Pratt Center and the summer collaboration was instrumental because that is exactly what they want institutions to do, and CSU has spearheaded that in our program.”

Shaffer said having the spotlight on CSU and making it a desirable destination to earn a degree is one of the many benefits of having a camp like this.

VIKINGS CHAMPS SUMMER CAMP OFFERS HEALTH CARE IMMERSIVE“We want to create an all-inclusive welcoming environment; they were able to go over the cafeteria every day and eat lunch for free, they were able to use the library and do their research pieces for their case studies,” she said.

“So, they were part of the CSU family thread which exposed them to professors and team members; it was just a great experience for them.”


Just because the camp ended does not mean the communication between students and CSU staff did. “I had students recently still texting me and asking if we have anything else for them to do and that they would like to come back,” said Shaffer.

“They enjoyed just being exposed to meeting new people, learning how to work through presenting and talking in front of people.”

Throughout the year, as community outreach coordinator, Shaffer will check in with students who attended, asking them how it’s going, how the school year is, and dropping off all kinds of swag.

VIKINGS CHAMPS SUMMER CAMP OFFERS HEALTH CARE IMMERSIVEIt’s those relationships built that she hopes they will consider CSU in the future for their undergraduate – and possibly – graduate studies.

“It’ll be a year [coming up at CSU] for me, and I have worked in marketing, community outreach, student development, and all that kind of stuff, but these babies have tugged at my heartstrings,” she said.

“Just seeing that development over the three weeks and knowing how instrumental that partnership is with the Pratt Center and what that looks like for those students, I am just super excited [for them].”

To watch a feature WKYC-Channel 3 did on the camp, please visit