Jorge Guerra, Sharyland High School Junior, attended the National Student Leadership Conference HEAL at Rice University this summer from June 23 to July 1st. He applied for the HEAL Camp after receiving promotional material in the mail. He knew Jihue Bae had attended the camp last summer and enjoyed her experience. He believes he was recommended by a teacher for the experience, but he isn’t sure which faculty member recommended him. “I want to thank the program, Jihue Bae, the anonymous teacher recommendation, and my parents for affording me the opportunity.” Jorge said.

Even though he was concerned about meeting new people and his living arrangements, he decided to register. “It was really a life changing experience. It is a memory that I’ll keep forever,” Jorge said. He shared that his roommate was a rising senior, Kelby Rowe, from Dripping Springs, Texas, but students from across the nation attended the camp. Jorge’s motivation to attend the camp stems from his desire to become a surgeon.

The camp routine was fully scheduled from sunrise to well past sunset. Typically, students started their day at 6:00 a.m. and ended it at 10:00 p.m. Students attended lectures, leadership activities, hands on medical labs, clinical rotation rounds, and field trips. Some of the memorable field trips included Houston Museum of Natural History, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Medical Center, and the University of Texas McGovern School of Medicine.

“Personally, I really liked the lecture on how to suture. It was led by a surgeon. We used a pig’s foot because the skin of a pig is closely related to a human in terms of texture.” Students created group public health service announcements. Jorge’s group chose the topic of Sleep Deprivation. They created a video and a PowerPoint presentation. “It was so easy to work on a project when the group was highly motivated. We had fun together. Everyone contributed. Collaborative projects are fun when you have a team that wants to work.”

Beyond the medical lectures and labs, Jorge learned a lot from the leadership activities. One that was memorable to him was an intrapersonal communication activity called Step Up to the Line. The camp formed a circle and within the circle was a rope on the floor in an oval pattern. At the beginning of the activity simple questions were posed such as step up to the line if you have a brother, or step up to the line if you will be a high school junior, little by little more personal questions were posed. “I was amazed at the situations that some of my peers have experienced. I took away that I am extremely blessed. There were a lot of questions that I didn’t answer yes to. It was incredible to see how in a safe environment without judgment how teens could feel confident to admit obstacles that they have overcome.”

What’s next for Jorge Guerra this school year? “I’m President of the Band this year. This leadership role gives me the opportunity to make a difference. Band has been going better than ever. I see a lot of opportunities for the band to excel. I want to explore the opportunity to do new things. UIL is also an area of personal and group goals. I want our math team to be successful at the state level.”