my capstone experience

Sandra Guglielmi '10, a Nursing major from Billerica, Mass., discusses her group Capstone project that focused on raising awareness about the lack of a health education program at a local middle school. The Capstone project, which involves extensive research and presentation, is the culmination of each student's academic experience.

While at Colby-Sawyer, Guglielmi was co-vice president of the Student Nurses Association and active with the Student Government Association. She also played on intramural volleyball, soccer and basketball teams. After graduation she began working at the Birth Pavilion in the nurse residency program of Dartmouth -Hitchcock Medical Center.

Please describe your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

My Capstone focused on raising awareness about the absence of a health education program at Kearsarge Regional Middle School (KRMS), an issue I became aware of after reading an article on the subject.

What research did you conduct for this project?

I conducted a lot of research to make this project successful! It was necessary to perform an assessment of the community and decipher their priority health education needs. This required conducting research nationally, statewide and locally. I used research from Healthy People 2010 to look at the top 10 priority health issues in the United States and from Healthy New Hampshire 2010 to understand the top 10 priority health issues in New Hampshire.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey was utilized to look at the top 10 priority health issues among middle school students in the state and nation. To gain an understanding of local health issues, I compiled a survey for teachers at KRMS. National, state and local data all pointed to sexual and other risky behaviors as well as substance use and abuse as the top priority issues at this time.

What did you learn through your Capstone project, and in what ways is it a culmination of your learning experience at Colby-Sawyer?

Through my Capstone project I learned the importance of building community capacity. When this project started it was just Colby-Sawyer and the middle school working together. As time went by, Kearsarge Health Coalition (KHC) showed an interest in helping us raise awareness in the community and the school. With the help of the KHC we were able to have access to a government-funded tool that focused on alcohol use and abuse as well as different tools students could use to say no in situations. We were then able to start a partnership between the health coalition and the middle school.

Through this experience I was able to see how effective our implementation was, as well as our ability to raise community awareness. Having other people/groups on board with a common goal makes you that much stronger in delivering a message.

What was most fun and rewarding for you in the process of creating your Capstone?

As a Nursing major it was a different task to implement a program outside of the hospital setting. It was nice to see another side of nursing inside the school system. It was fun to work with the faculty and staff at the middle school as well as members of the Kearsarge Health Coalition who helped in the implementation phase of my Capstone. It was rewarding to compile a lesson plan and interact with the eighth grade students. We are used to working with sick patients in the hospital setting, so it was nice to see the other end of the spectrum and be able to raise awareness among the students, to be able to give them the tools that they will need in the future and to make a difference.

What did you find most challenging and difficult about the project?

Working with a group of seven members proved difficult. Although it made it more efficient in the research and implementation phase, it was difficult for everyone to attend meetings. This led to a lot of e-mails to communicate with each other and get everyone on the same page. That said, not having seven group members would have made the research portion of this project more extensive and the implementation phase almost impossible.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project, both for you and others?

I hope that the students really absorbed our message. It is difficult to see change in such a short period of time. I hope next year's senior nursing class will continue the partnership that was built between Colby-Sawyer, KRMS and KHC. This year was a lot of hard work in starting new partnerships. Hopefully next year the Nursing Department will continue to build on them as well as continue to raise awareness among the community.

How would you summarize your Colby-Sawyer experience? What do you most appreciate as you prepare to graduate?

I had a great Colby-Sawyer experience. In my years here I was able to grow and obtain skills that I can carry with me as I continue my career and education. I appreciate the experiences and skills that Colby-Sawyer provided me with to help me obtain a job at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center upon graduation.