James Madison University

Valley Scholars Celebrate Family Day with CHBS Activities

By: Dina Manco '16
Posted: April 6, 2016

Valley Scholars’ second Annual Family Day was held on December fifth exclusively with departments from the College of Health and Behavioral Studies (CHBS) on the JMU campus. The Valley Scholars program provides access to higher education opportunities for students in the Shenandoah Valley. Acceptance to the Valley Scholars program is competitive and only open to eighth and ninth graders who are hoping to be first generation college attendees. Upon successful completion of the program and other prerequisites, participants receive a tuition and fees scholarship to attend JMU after graduating from high school.

PHOTO: JMU students with Valley Scholars

The goal of Family Day is to showcase the range of opportunities JMU offers. Eighth grade scholars and their families participated in activities with the psychology, nursing, and occupational therapy programs while ninth graders were introduced to the physician assistant and athletic training programs. Scholars were not limited to bringing just their immediate family to these events; extended family members were welcome as well. Social Work students entertained the younger relatives of participants through coloring with them as well as playing interactive games.

Social Work sophomore and Family Day volunteer Bryanna Sniadecki says entertaining the younger children throughout the day “allowed [parents’] attention to be directed solely onto their other child's accomplishments with their undivided attention. I believe this enhanced the family experience.”

PHOTO: JMU students with Valley Scholars

CHBS Associate Dean Dr. Paula Maxwell says, “[Participants] visited the occupational therapy lab where they experienced vision distortion goggles while attempting to complete activities [such as] decorating cookies and an obstacle course.” This showed them first-hand how certain disabilities can impair activities and how to adapt to improve their performance. Maxwell adds, “Nursing provided the students with opportunities to interact with their high-fidelity simulation manikins which the parents were able to watch from an observation room, and psychology presented an animal lab demonstration and a computerized eye-tracking program.”

Some of the other activities included anatomy lessons by the physician assistant program, a concussion diagnosis and treatment workshop from athletic training, and free health assessments for families from the Nursing Department. This included checking vision, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

Director of Valley Scholars Shaun Mooney comments, “Parents know the profession of nursing and it gives them the opportunity to see what the nursing students do in the labs they offer. Our occupational therapy program is very similar. The [students] get to see and experience it from an educational standpoint; the parents get to experience it as far as what training looks like on these career paths.” Participants also attended a workshop about the value of AP courses in high school, financial aid, and scholarships available at the university.

PHOTO: JMU students with Valley Scholars

According to Mooney, there were around 200 participants at Family Day. 17 JMU faculty members facilitated the activities, while over 70 JMU students interacted with the scholars to create a memorable experience.

Maxwell comments, “For the CHBS volunteers, we hope this gives a satisfied sense that they potentially helped younger students to get one step closer to realizing their dreams of college. For many, it provided an appreciation for students who are in situations where college isn’t a simple ‘given’ and where those students must overcome obstacles to be able to earn a college degree.”

Mooney says CHBS programs are all unique and offer different avenues for knowledge. He hopes the scholars gained an awareness of the opportunities JMU can offer them.  “The purpose of family day is to expose students to the fields, but also to bring the family members and make them feel comfortable with our education,” he states.