Promote health in 100 teens in Portland, Oregon

Mar 21, 2012

MIKE Program Impacts Youth and the Community

"Make a Kidney Day"
"Make a Kidney Day"

MIKE Program Youth “Make a Kidney”

MIKE Program’s Cheryl Neal, MD, tested dozens of makeshift kidneys made by freshmen at De La Salle North Catholic High School recently. The project is part of MIKE Program’s curriculum that matches teams to compete for the best kidney made from everyday household products. The lesson helps teens understand how kidneys work.

In the weeks following the activity, teens visited several Portland dialysis clinics to talk directly with individuals undergoing dialysis. The teens are accompanied by their mentors and MIKE Program staff. The visit is one of the highlights of activities for the youth and dialysis patients alike. The youth listen to people of all ages and backgrounds discuss how they live with dialysis due to kidney failure. The youth respond with a greater commitment to protecting their kidneys by eating healthier foods, drinking more water and exercising.

Pacific University Finds MIKE Program Impacts the Lives of Teens

MIKE Program is changing the way young people value nutrition in their lives. Susan Li of Pacific University told a filled room at MIKE Program’s annual “Our Community Gathering” event on March 11 that her findings point to clear evidence that young people gain skills and confidence to make healthy choices after participating in the program.

Li, who directs the Child and Adolescent Track of the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at Pacific University, is analyzing the impact MIKE Program has on youth and their health. She and her students quantify results based on MIKE Program’s surveys to determine what works in changing behaviors.

The project utilizes youth surveys to measure improvement based on participation in MIKE Program. Li’s project focuses on health self-efficacy, personal goals and knowledge. According to Li, the results show significant improvement in the students’ ability to eat a better well-balanced diet, tell which foods were healthy and decide which foods were good after completing MIKE Program.

MIKE Program began partnering with Li and her students last spring. Li says the partnership is focused on getting the word out about its impact. The efforts will monitor MIKE Program’s effectiveness, track how the curriculum impacts youth, measure changes in health behaviors and promote evidence of the curriculum’s effectiveness.

“We’ve found that MIKE Program is really meeting targets for knowledge change,” said Li. She listed kidney anatomy, risk factors, nutrition and exercise as important lessons the youth are learning. “They’re changing in the area of nutrition self-efficacy and that’s probably because MIKE Program is so service learning, hands-on and empowering in terms of ‘let’s go there, let’s figure this out, let’s look at labels and let’s try this out.’ So, they’re really feeling like they can do that piece.”

Li’s work and that of one of her doctoral students, Nichole Sage, has been accepted for peer-reviewed poster presentations at several regional conferences. Sage presented the first in a series of posters at the Oregon Public Health Association Conference last October. She will present another poster at the Western Psychological Association Annual Convention in San Francisco, Calif., in April, while Li will present a poster at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association Annual Convention in Reno, Nev. Laura Pagenstecher, another student of Li’s, also helps with the data crunching for the findings.

Funding from two Oregon foundations, Collins Medical Trust and the Juan Young Trust, helps support the partnership. The Collins Medical Trust directly funds the partnership with Pacific University to evaluate and further develop MIKE Program projects and activities. Juan Young Trust’s funding also supports the partnership, in addition to helping MIKE Program expand its reach at the Miller Education Center-West in Hillsboro.

Li says she’s finding that MIKE Program is impacting more than the youth. “I’m actually supervising one of the mentor’s working at the Miller Education Center site,” said Li. “Her health behaviors are changing also.” The mentor is thinking about her own health choices as she shops for healthy snacks for the youth. “The mentor thinks before grabbing a bag a potato chips, now. “We’re talking about busy people,” said Li. “These are students who also don’t have a lot of income, have busy schedules, are stressed out and have a lot of things going on in their lives.”

Susan Li (center) of Pacific University Reports
Susan Li (center) of Pacific University Reports


Dec 27, 2011

Take a Look Inside MIKE Program

De La Salle North Catholic High School youth
De La Salle North Catholic High School youth

Youth Learn Why Health Matters to Them

After participating in a MIKE Program activity about how youth respond to healthy and unhealthy foods, Alison realized what it meant. She wrote on her lesson sheet, “health is all that matters.” She, like most of her peers is beginning to understand the links between their actions and their health.

Youth at two Portland schools are teamed with caring adults who provide healthy snacks and guidance through the youths’ health curriculum and leadership projects. Mentors play an important role as the youth discover the importance of their health decisions. In turn, the youth are developing the knowledge and skills to become role models in their school, family and community.

MIKE Program launched the 2011-2012 program at De La Salle North Catholic High School in October, where we serve about 100 youth. The program at Rosemary Anderson High School began in November.


MIKE Program Partners with Health Teachers to Strengthen Lessons

MIKE Program is a partnership on many levels: youth with mentors, mentors with MIKE Program, and MIKE Program with schools—especially, teachers. MIKE Program partners with health teachers who serve as site facilitators, welcoming MIKE Program’s award-winning curriculum and mentors. The curriculum provides a holistic approach to health, healthy lifestyles and healthy kidneys.

David Mickola of De La Salle North Catholic High School is now in his third year with MIKE Program. Mickola says, “I’ve seen a progression over time by the students, also increasing awareness of chronic disease and the very tangible link of the importance of drinking water over soda.” A graduate of Portland State and George Fox Universities, Mickola worked with medically-fragile children before teaching at De La Salle. With 22 mentors in his freshman health classes each week, Mickola appreciates the help and commitment. “It’s great to see the mentors engage and develop trust with their students.”

Mickola would like to see MIKE Program expand. “One of the most frequent questions I get from my seniors is, ‘why didn’t we get to do MIKE Program?’”

MIKE Program renewed its partnership with Rosemary Anderson High School/POIC this November. Youth at the school represent some of Portland’s most vulnerable. MIKE Program’s comprehensive approach ties the relationship of healthy lifestyles to positive role models. MIKE Program mentor Robert Brown undergoes weekly dialysis treatments, so he provides the RAHS youth a direct connection to the effects of kidney failure. He volunteers with MIKE Program because he saw a lack of positive role models in the community. 

For Dennis Butler, instructor at Rosemary Anderson High School, MIKE Program offers engagement in healthy relationships as much as it does skills building.

Butler has been teaching and/or facilitating in education for 36 years. He appreciates how MIKE Program provides way for youth to counter the effects that lead to kidney failure.


MIKE Program in the Classroom: It’s a Learning Process

Last week in David Mickola’s classroom, the De La Salle North Catholic High School youth were absorbed in a conversation about teasing a fellow classmate for eating a healthy lunch. The youth were engaged in an exercise to highlight how teens respond to lunchroom situations. The majority laughed that they were eating pizza while their classmate was chewing on carrots.

Now in their seventh week, the mostly 14-year-olds still have much to learn as healthy eating extends beyond a classroom lesson. They are beginning to use individual health planners developed and provided by MIKE Program to guide them toward healthier choices. For MIKE Program, it’s a strategy for genuine change in behavior.

MIKE Program mentors listened as Mickola took his students through the process of discussing the implications of the scenario and what effect it had on the boy and themselves. After the discussion, the youth not only were more aware of how their actions, but were also more open to understanding how foods affect their health.

Youth today are more likely to value pizza and junk food over vegetables and fruits. MIKE Program carefully realigns those values to empower youth to understand the importance of their choices for their health now and in the future.

MIKE Program incorporates sensible, easy to access foods and actions to help build far greater success toward reaching that goal. To instill healthy habits, MIKE Program mentors bring healthy snacks to class each week. They focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains in healthy combinations as staples for the youth snacks. The process of bringing healthy snacks is also a learning process for the mentors. Catherine Stensby, who mentors two groups each week, commented that she was surprised by the price of grapes in the off-season, so she’s found other healthy foods that fit within her budget.

Greg Kluthe, who mentors with Stensby on Thursdays, said he’s watched the youth progress from ignoring the snacks during the first weeks, to now arriving at class looking for the snacks and water. The process helps youth adapt to the healthy choices through sharing a normal routine with their peers. It also builds consistency into their diet which may not be available at home.

The process is important to countering obesity. According to the Portland Plan, one in four youth are overweight in the Portland area, adding to the increase rates of diabetes at younger ages. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney failure in the U.S. Losing weight and eating healthy can prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.

A Gallop poll released this week, asked about ways Americans have lost weight successfully. Those polled sited dietary changes and exercise as most reliable. The recently released draft of The Portland Plan counted one in every four youth in the region as overweight or obese. Such data point to one of the fundamental reasons for MIKE Program. Equipping teenagers with knowledge, skills and values to make healthier decisions prepares the youth to advocate for themselves, peers and families and avoid joining the rising segment of the population experiencing chronic non-communicable diseases.

David Mickola with students.
David Mickola with students.
RAHS' Dennis Butler in class.


Oct 18, 2011

Connecting Healthy Messages for Youth

First week with mentors at DLSNC
First week with mentors at DLSNC

What Youth Want

MIKE Program connects with youth is by guiding them into peer-relationships that help them discover their leadership capacities and voice. We begin by listening to them. Each new school year, MIKE Program conducts a preliminary survey of each student to discover what they are expecting from the program. We were amazed to hear so many of them want some very basic things.

Youth in four health classes at De La Salle North Catholic High School overwhelming want to learn more about their kidneys and how to stay healthy. Most of the youth at the school are challenged daily by socio and economic issues which make it difficult to achieve a healthy lifestyle on their own. MIKE Program provides them with caring adult mentors who help them realize their own power in making healthy choices. No wonder a majority of the youth stated that they looked forward to learning about and sharing time with their mentors.

After an initial overview about kidneys, youth were drawn to how they can prevent kidney failure. MIKE Program President, Dr. Cheryl Neal, told an audience at “Are You Ready?” event on October 15 that after going through hands-on lessons about kidney function, “they begin to realize what they put into their body is important.” As they progress with MIKE Program this year, they will learn many ways they can prevent kidney failure and lead healthy lives for themselves and for their families. They will develop an understanding of the importance of nutrition and exercise, along with other health issues.

MIKE Program commits to the youth every week to empower them to become educated health consumers who can make decisions that will affect their lives now and throughout their lives. Your support means that more young people will avoid the trends of increasing obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure—all which lead to kidney failure. In turn, MIKE Program is building a new generation of health advocates not only for themselves, but for their families and communities.


MIKE Program Poster Featured at the OPHA Conference

Nichole Sage presented a poster featuring MIKE Program at the 67th Annual Oregon Public Health Association (OPHA) Conference at Oregon State University on Oct. 10. As one of a select group of presenters, Sage’s winning poster connected the prevention of chronic kidney failure with MIKE Program’s curriculum for youth. It was a win for Sage, a doctoral student at Pacific University, as well as for MIKE Program.

Sage’s conclusion in the poster stated, “Theoretically and conceptually, MIKE Program meets public health objectives to reduce the risk for CKD (chronic kidney disease) in disadvantaged populations. The next step for this program is to evaluate its effectiveness in meeting these goals.”

The conference brought together health professionals from throughout Oregon with dozens of forums and talks regarding almost every aspect of public health. MIKE Program’s inclusion in the poster presentation was a first for such an event. Sage, who coordinated the poster with Dr. Susan Li, associate professor of psychology at Pacific University, and with Dr. Cheryl Neal, president of MIKE Program. MIKE Program’s growing partnership with Pacific University will include extending our curriculum to youth in an afterschool program in Hillsboro later this year.


Sewing the Past into the Future

One of the experiences youth look forward to in their participation with MIKE Program is the t-shirt contest. It inspires youth to create designs and a message about the impact of MIKE Program and the importance of their kidneys. Over the years, the t-shirts have featured dozens of colors and messages as diverse as the youth who created them.

Combining them for a greater message was the idea of MIKE Program’s AmeriCorps Service Member for 2010-2011, Jess Himelfarb. Himelfarb, who discovered a large population of quilters in the Portland area, thought it would be a great way to leverage the talents of local quilters with MIKE Program. The result was an effort by Danielle Horn and Pamela Head with the first MIKE Program quilt.

The quilt was auctioned off at MIKE Program’s annual benefit dinner and auction on Oct. 1. Bernie Foster, publisher of The Skanner News Group, won the quilt with the highest bid. He wanted to ensure the quilt generated additional coverage, so he offered it in a contest at the first annual “Are You Ready?” event on Oct. 15. The event featured public health and safety resources for minorities and other disadvantaged populations in Portland. Six-year-old Jedidiah Ibe, who was patiently attending the conference with his father, Solomon, who works with Multnomah County Public Health Department, won the quilt. The quilt is sure to provide the youngster with warmth this winter and a message that will last a lifetime.

Nichole Sage of Pacific University with poster.
Nichole Sage of Pacific University with poster.
Jedidiah Ibe wins MIKE Program quilt.
Jedidiah Ibe wins MIKE Program quilt.


Sep 6, 2011

New School Year Means New Opportunities for Youth

MIKE Program Curriculum Training
MIKE Program Curriculum Training

New School Year is New Opportunity for Youth, Mentors and Teachers

MIKE Program has been busy all summer to provide local teachers with the tools they need to incorporate healthy lifestyles in their health classes. Jess Bogli, Oregon’s health education curriculum specialist, led a two-day workshop in August to help teachers incorporate MIKE Program’s award-winning health curriculum into their health classes.

The curriculum is a hands-on model that brings mentors, often health professions’ students, into local high schools serving low-income inner city and rural young people to modify behavior and reinforce health promotion and disease prevention, while promoting the knowledge and skills for sustaining healthy kidneys. The curriculum, aligned with Oregon’s K-12 standards, offers multi-sensory learning for youth who are most at-risk for developing obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

One of our recent mentors said “MIKE Program makes me feel aware and helps me set myself to become a healthy person.” We look forward to creating that awareness in many classrooms this school year.


Volunteers Help Preserve Youth Designs

Soon after Danielle Horn moved to Portland, she began to look for ways to volunteer in the community. It helped her meet new people and share one of her many talents—quilting. After meeting with MIKE Program’s 2010-2011 AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator Jess Himelfarb, Danielle came up with an idea to capture the designs of youth from their t-shirt projects. The t-shirt design project is one of the fun ways youth can illustrate their knowledge of the functions of their kidneys and healthy choices.

Danielle took home t-shirts from the last four years and worked on a plan to feature them in a quilt. Her activities drew the attention of fellow quilter, Pamela Head. As they near completion of the quilt, plans are being prepared to feature it in our annual benefit dinner and auction on October 1. The colorful quilt will provide more than the artistry and ideas of youth who have been a part of MIKE Program—it will extend their enthusiasm for healthy kidneys to all those who see it.


AmeriCorps Film Project for MIKE Program on YouTube

MIKE Program believes education is key to empowering youth, adults and the community. That’s why we participate in the AmeriCorps service program. AmeriCorps offers young adults an opportunity to learn and help nonprofits strengthen their outreach and work. Jess Himelfarb was the first AmeriCorps service member to join us. The Lewis and Clark College graduate helped shape our management of the many volunteers who make MIKE Program possible. Much like MIKE Program’s curriculum requirement for the youth inside their classroom, AmeriCorps requires an individual project from each service member before completing their 11-month commitment.

Jess created a film project to feature the importance of volunteering and how MIKE Program shaped the lives of those who volunteer. With the help of videographer Stacie Stevens, Jess captured the essence of what MIKE Program means to those who volunteer. We couldn’t ask for a better way to show that than with Jess’ film. Watch it at:

MIKE Program Quilting Project
MIKE Program Quilting Project
Jess Himelfarb
Jess Himelfarb


May 26, 2011

MIKE Program Empowers Youth

DLSNC Youth at a dialysis center in Portland, OR
DLSNC Youth at a dialysis center in Portland, OR

MIKE Program Partners with La Salle North Catholic High School to Empower Youth to be Ambassadors of Health

MIKE Program has been empowering the youth at De La Salle to be ambassadors of health for two years. MIKE Program brings youth together with caring mentors who support teens in academic and career success.

De La Salle North Catholic High School is a private Catholic school in north Portland serving largely modest or low-income minority students. Students actively participate in the Corporate Internship Program to help defray as much as 70 percent of their tuition costs. The curriculum is designed to provide college-preparatory classes to promising, at-risk students (Portland Business Journal, 2001.) Founded in 2001, De La Salle graduated its first high school class in 2005.

MIKE Program youth participate in classroom projects, field trips to health care facilities, a supermarket scavenger hunt and other MIKE Program events. MIKE Program featured several De La Salle youth at the annual Community Gathering, “It’s the Fashion to Love Your Kidneys” event in March. The youth entertained an audience of more than 250 people with a fun and healthy rap.

The De La Salle Healthy Kidney Rap:

Drink a lot of water,

Eat a lot of fruit,

Get a lot of exercise,

Is what you need to do.


Take care of your body,

You won’t be disappointed.

And if you know the kid,

Dance. Come on and join us.


Do you got a kidney?

No, you got two.

If you want to know more,

We’ll tell you what they do.


They filter out the toxins,

The good and the bad.

They clear out your blood stream,

And you’ll be really glad.


But, when you put too much in,

And start to abuse them,

You lose them.


MIKE Program Youth Hunt for Healthy Choices


MIKE Program readied youth for the face-to-face reality of the loss of kidney function recently. De La Salle North Catholic High School youth explored one of three NE Portland dialysis centers, as staff and patients shared their experiences and knowledge of dialysis treatment. The youth also visited a local supermarket for a scavenger hunt to demonstrate how they can make healthy choices each day to help prevent obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, which can lead to kidney failure. The field trips are part of MIKE Program’s curriculum for high school students.


Volunteers Documenting Youth Projects


MIKE Program volunteers are documenting youth projects with photos and video to better tell the story of our work with youth. We will post them on our website (, and be sure to check out YouTube, Facebook and Flickr.

Mentor Jason Baker working with DSLNC youth.
Mentor Jason Baker working with DSLNC youth.


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MIKE Program

Portland, OR, United States

Project Leader

Cheryl Neal

Portland, OR United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Promote health in 100 teens in Portland, Oregon