‘Bridging the gap’ by Greg St. Martin May 16, 2011 Share Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Courtesy photo. Transitioning from high school to college can be a daunting challenge for teenagers, given the pressures and anxiety from a new social environment, a more rigorous academic workload and increased freedom and independence. To smooth this transition, four Northeastern University students have developed a wellness education model to prepare high school seniors mentally and physically for the lifestyle changes ahead. For their senior capstone project this past spring, health sciences majors Katherine Brock, Rose Paine, Kaitlin Ostrander and Lily Shipley created the college readiness model to integrate into the curriculum of the after-school youth enrichment program located at the Badger & Rosen SquashBusters Center, on Northeastern’s campus. “We wanted to bridge that gap after high school, and make sure that once they got to college, that they’d be successful,” Ostrander said. Recognizing that incoming college freshmen are often prone to stress and resulting high-risk behaviors such as unhealthy eating, the Northeastern students said a major component of the wellness program involves offering practical advice on how to deal with those and many other issues. The four students led interactive workshops on topics such as social integration, nutrition, time management and the dangers of drugs and alcohol use. In these sessions, high school students were taught how to handle roommate conflicts, provided simple ways to control portion size at meals and shown what a college course syllabus looks like. The comprehensive module they created for SquashBusters includes case studies on common scenarios new roommates face, videos, demonstrations and a healthy eating guide. They said the goal is to ultimately help these teenagers make healthy lifestyle choices once they enter college, as they become more mature, independent and self-motivating. “I enjoyed working with this age group. I think youths are really inspiring,” Shipley said. “We’re teaching them how to stay healthy so they can pass it on to younger students.” Jennifer Lillis, an academic and community service coordinator at SquashBusters, said it made a big difference for the SquashBusters teenagers to receive this advice from the Northeastern students because they were in the teenagers’ same position only a few years ago. The SquashBusters program began in 1996 and moved to Northeastern’s campus in 2003. Through the program, urban youths learn how to play squash, while gaining hands-on academic help and communities service opportunities.