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Summer Program Offers At-Risk, Low-Income High School Students Chance To Redesign Hospitals

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- High school students in Brooklyn are avoiding summer brain drain in a pretty unique way.

With a little help from a Midtown non-profit, the teens are helping to redesign hospitals, CBS2's Nina Kapur reported Tuesday.

Engineering, design and architecture are just a few of the skills high schoolers are learning at Pratt Institute. In the Summer Design Studio Program, which lasts seven weeks, at-risk low-income students are challenged to identify problems in hospitals, and then solve them.

Summer brain drain
High school students are taking part in an innovative summer program that teaches them how to redesign hospitals. (Photo: CBS2)

"So they're looking at redesigning the bathrooms, and redesigning the waiting rooms, coming up with interactive games for kids to play with, but that are easy to clean," program co-director Natasha Seng said.

Organizers said students without access to these kinds of programs fall about two months behind their peers over the summer, but this program has proven to keep them on par.

"They are so deeply immersed in these academic concepts, that when they go back to school in September they're on the same level as the rest of their peers and they don't fall behind," Seng said.

The program is extremely hands-on and teaches the students to use new engineering and design skills to create things like a new hospital layout from scratch, and to design floor plans and even use geometric shapes to create unique waiting room seats, Kapur reported.

It's called project-based learning. It encourages collaboration and aims to continue advancing their skills.

"Despite being here for four years, there are things I grew better at or just started learning," student Lindsey Guallpa said.

"I feel like it's really cool that when I go back to school I'm not re-learning everything," student Cheyenne Benjamin said.

And it's not only for fun. At the end of the summer, the students will present to a panel of judges, including Mount Sinai medical practitioners.

Students have to apply to be considered for the free program through the non-profit Publicolor. Each student will earn a weekly stipend of $175 if they are accepted.

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