"When I came to the Health Careers Camp I THOUGHT I wanted to be a nurse in Durango. Now I KNOW I want to be a nurse in Durango!”
~ Maya, age 17

HCC2019 camp image
Hi Everyone,

Thank you to all of the people who contributed to the Health Careers Camp. As the new Executive Director of Southwestern Colorado AHEC, I was thrilled to be a part of the event. It was a huge success and the students involved not only learned about healthcare professions, but also developed meaningful relationships and gained knowledge and skills related to health and healthy behaviors. This camp, part of our larger health careers pipeline, was the first step for many students working towards their healthcare goals.

The enthusiastic participation of our local healthcare professionals was an inspiration for our students and further reinforced their commitment to the healthcare field. I am so grateful for both the skills that they taught and the experiences that they shared. Our volunteers brought healthcare to life and personified the dedication, compassion, and hard work that characterizes the profession. Thank you to everyone who participated in demonstrations, presentations, health career stations, speed interviewing, and shadowing experiences! Your impact was immeasurable.

Flexible Flyers Rafting provided the students with an exciting rafting adventure and an introduction to the area of swift water rescue. The knowledgeable guides shared their expertise about river rescues and safe whitewater techniques in an engaging and relevant way. The faculty, food service staff, and Residence Life staff at Fort Lewis College were also responsible for the success of the camp. Their professionalism and friendliness enriched everyone’s days at camp. You are all appreciated!

I also want to thank SWCAHEC's dedicated staff, community volunteers, camp counselors and, most importantly, our financial sponsors. Because of you, twenty-three high-school students from across Southwest Colorado were introduced to various health career opportunities and are setting their sights on a future in healthcare. The future of healthcare in our Southwestern Colorado communities is bright!

Warm Regards, Kate Hartzell
Executive Director of SWCAHEC

Thank you to the Community Volunteers who came out to support our Interactive Demo Day!


Campers learned how to handle a cardiac situation, practice suturing techniques, read a person's blood pressure, understand the importance of health, balance and alignment and so much more…



Professional Shadow Day

Community Garden Tour and Food Security Discussion

Flight For Life Tour and Flight Nurse Overview

EMT/Law Enforcement Professional Traning and Preparation Discussion

PCC Cadaver Lab


"I interviewed a speech pathologist and she told me that she does her job so that she can be a voice for those people who are not able to speak. For me, that was inspiring!" ~ R, age 16



iron chef 12
The Iron Chef Competition was included in this year’s Health Careers Camp as a fun and practical way for our students to learn about nutrition, food preparation, and food safety. Students worked in teams during the competition to prepare healthy meals for a panel of judges. They learned about healthy food prior to the event during an informative presentation at Montezuma County School to Farm that included the role of community gardens in healthy communities, food insecurity, and food sovereignty.
Fort Lewis College chefs created recipes for healthy meals for each team to prepare, and taught students about food and kitchen safety in advance of the competition. The competition began as each team was shown to their station and received a recipe and a cart stocked with ingredients. Students quickly identified roles and responsibilities, and then the competition began in a fast and furious way as students chopped, steamed, and sautéed.
One by one, each team presented a balanced meal to the panel of four judges, who sampled dishes and quizzed teams about process, ingredients, and teamwork. The judges selected winners using a point system for scoring in four categories: best main dish, best side dish, most creative dish, and best presentation. Enough food was prepared by each team for all to share in a healthy feast.

Learning with the Health Sciences Faculty at Fort Lewis College
Exercise Science, Biomechanics, and Health Psychology

Health Careers Camp students spent an evening with the Faculty of the Health Sciences Department at Fort Lewis College where they learned about the relationship between exercise physiology, biomechanics, psychology and health promotion. Students were able to observe a demonstration of VO2 Max testing and participated in a discussion about both the science of the testing and results as well as the relationship between these concepts and overall wellness. Dr. Melissa Maloney and Rotem Ishay used the combination of technology and science concepts to make the demonstration challenging and engaging for the students. Dr. Maloney’s daughter Shannon, an accomplished athlete, was the test subject whose participation in the testing allowed students to understand the bodies response to maximal physical effort.
Dr. Melissa Thompson, whose work in biomechanics has had far-reaching consequences for addressing mobility issues in those struggling with chronic diseases like diabetes, demonstrated how the use of computerized sensors can reveal issues with gait. Dr. Thompson’s explanation of her research and demonstration of her research technology introduced students to a field that combines physics and kinesiology to study human movement. This presentation revealed the important relationship between scientific research and the resulting development of healthcare materials and practices that impact human health.
Finally, Dr. Susumu Iwasaki discussed how our psychology can impact our sports performance and our overall health. Using goggles connected to a computer, Dr. Iwasaki discussed the concept of focus in relation to multiple physiological states. As there were multiple students interested in neuropsychology, Dr. Iwasaki really inspired many of our students to know more about the relationship between our brain, our psychology, and our physical health.
Thank you to Dr. Melissa Knight-Maloney, Ms. Shannon Maloney, Mr. Rotem Ishay, Dr. Melissa Thompson, and Dr. Susumu Iwasaki of the Health Sciences Department at Fort Lewis College for exposing students to new and exciting areas of health research and for illustrating how research informs what we know about health and healthcare!


Teens ranged from 14 to 17 years old


Teens from 6 of the 8 Southwestern Colorado
regions attended the camp



Health Careers Camp was an experiential learning experience that exposed students to the healthcare professions through a combination of educational modalities. Demonstrations, lectures, and hands-on learning allowed students to gain a better understanding of the healthcare professions and of themselves. Evaluations of student learning demonstrated an increase in content knowledge, a more focused approach to career planning, and an increased commitment to a career in a healthcare field. This increase in knowledge along with positive responses to youth resiliency measures reveals the positive impact of the camp experience.
Students were asked at the beginning and at the end of camp to list the names of the health careers that they knew. Many campers had some idea about possible health careers but the number that they were able to list was larger after camp. Exposure to the different types of healthcare jobs as well as a deeper understanding of the roles and responsibilities of different jobs led to increased awareness of possible careers in healthcare.


HCC scrubs photo

As a result of the Health Careers Camp:

  • 87% of campers feel a stronger connection to their community
  • 91% of campers feel like they have choices about their futures
  • 91% of campers felt that they connected with an adult who believes that they will be a success
  • 100% of campers felt that they have a purpose in life and goals and objectives for the future


Southwestern Colorado AHEC is committed to creating, enhancing, and maintaining a healthcare workforce uniquely qualified to address the health issues of Southwestern Colorado communities. We could not do this work without the generous support of our sponsors. We are grateful that we are able to partner with innovative and committed organizations that make an impact everyday by financing community based initiatives. Our success is your success. We deeply appreciate you.

Warm Regards,

Southwestern Colorado Area Health Education Center Staff
Kate Hartzell, MA, MAT, MPH
Heather Sorensen, RN, MSN

Mary Dengler Frey, MLA Jeanette Alba
Kerri Cardin, Communications

facebook website