Photo Credit: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Michele Decker, with COCC's nursing program, explains the different outfits worn by nursing students in the many occupations open to them during a Junior Buffalo Academy session.Sixty-five middle school students were willing to give up three weeks of summer vacation this year to attend Junior Buffalo Academy, Aug. 4-21.

Held to give sixth- through eighth-graders a jump start on the school year, the summer school meets half-days, Monday through Thursday, at Jefferson County Middle School.

“It gets students ready for the school year and encourages them to think about their future,” said Gena Bennett, coordinator.

The students have a math session, reading class, and science class where they are learning about seed germination by growing green beans, and will soon be making solar-powered cars.

Maggie McDonald, who will be entering the eighth grade, explained why she enrolled in the academy. “It was better than just sitting a home. I like it; it’s fun and I get to see my friends,” she said.

Nacho Ruiz, who will be a seventh-grader, said he enrolled because, “I didn’t want to play with my little brother, who's 7.” He said he’s enjoying the novel “Among the Hidden” they are reading in class. “It’s about a country where they are only allowed to have two kids, and the main character is in hiding because he’s the third,” Ruiz said.

The academy has partnered with Central Oregon Community College to bring in COCC instructors as guest speakers to get kids interested in possible future careers.

So far, students have heard from COCC automotive technology instructor Ken Mays, aviation instructor Karl Baldessari, Julian Darwin from the Cascade Culinary Institute, and Drew Jones from the COCC admissions office.

Last Thursday, nursing instructor Michele Decker gave a presentation on the COCC nursing program. The kids were captivated by all the props she brought, including patient gowns, surgical staff gowns, caps and masks, doctor’s jackets, nursing student T-shirts, rubber gloves and stethoscopes.

Students were soon strutting around dressed as doctors or surgical nurses and using the stethoscopes to listen to each other’s hearts.

Decker also brought a $5,000 training manikin named “Bobby,” and demonstrated how nursing students can use it to practice giving shots, and try to diagnose problems based on the symptoms the manikin produces.

She talked about the hours nurses could work, from part-time to 12-hour shifts; different job opportunities from a hospital to doctor’s office, and what people have to study to become a nurse.

“They use computers, math, writing, and psychology. Nurses are very well-educated,” she said, noting people could become a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, or doctor nurse (nurse practitioner).

“Both men and women are nurses. Thirty-three percent of the students in my classes are men,” Decker told students.

“Do they call the men `murses’?” a bewildered boy asked.

“No, they are all called nurses,” she said.

Asking for questions at the end of her talk, Decker answered a lot of queries about what happens when patients die, and what happens to organs removed during surgery. When she said she had taken care of a kidney transplant patient, one student asked, “Where are your kidneys?” Another asked, “How do babies get organs?” The fascinated students flooded her with questions.

At the end of the academy program, the students will get to travel to the University of Oregon for a campus tour and visit to the athletic facilities. Last year, participants visited Oregon State University.

“The trip to the U of O will be pretty awesome. That’s my favorite team,” Ruiz said.

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