Promote health in 100 teens in Portland, Oregon

by MIKE Program
MIKE mentors training session
MIKE mentors training session

When Nadia was a young girl in Belarus, she learned how food played a role in the health of her family. As much as her parents tried to provide the best for their children, Nadia’s family found it difficult to access healthy food. By the time her mother won a green card lottery to move to the U.S. more than ten years ago, Nadia joined her mother to discover that access to healthy food would be more of a path for her than she had ever realized.

Now studying community health at Portland State University (PSU), Nadia (pictured in center of the photo) is determined to give back to her new country in many ways. Besides volunteering for MIKE Program, Nadia spends her time outside the classroom volunteering with Sisters of the Road Café, the Oregon Food Bank and her church.

Even in her part-time job at a bistro inside PSU’s athletic center, Nadia offers her ideas for healthier options. She says its one way to help people live healthier lives.

Nadia applied to mentor with MIKE because the program offers a direct opportunity to motivate young people. She discovered how much she enjoyed working with young people while she mentored elementary students toward leadership skills at her church in Beaverton.

“I hope to bring a greater understanding of health issues to young people,” says Nadia. “I want them to see that they have the power to change their future.” She says she wants to be a role model for the youth. “I want them to know that they are not their circumstances. They can change their future.”

Nadia is not the only mentor who sees the importance of being a positive role model for youth. MIKE mentors overwhelmingly want to create a healthier future for young people. As Spring Semester 2017 gets underway this week, each mentor is hoping to provide a positive influence for the youth.

It is vital that these opportunities for MIKE’s mentors and youth continue. Without donors like you, MIKE would not be able to empower the number of mentors and youth with the skills and knowledge they need to showcase health. It’s a path we all share toward healthier lifestyles.  


Joe enjoys mentoring with MIKE.
Joe enjoys mentoring with MIKE.

Last week the usually boisterous classroom of ninth graders at De La Salle North Catholic High School grew unusually quiet. The teens were listening intently into stethoscopes to hear the blood pressure of their peers.

The activity was part of MIKE Program’s blood pressure clinic which brings in health professionals and college students into the classroom to guide the teens through the process of measuring blood pressure. The lesson helps reinforce the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure levels while providing the hands-on experience. One team, mentored by Joe, was intent to get the most precise readings possible.

For Joe, the activity bridges his interest in a career in medicine with mentoring youth. He has been through this process before. Joe says he’s so impressed with MIKE’s impact in the classroom that he was eager to mentor for a third year.

“I enjoy the multicultural and diverse environment,” says Joe. “And I love learning through the perspectives of the youth.” The blood pressure clinic is a great example of how MIKE takes complex health issues and translates them into understandable terms for the youth.

Joe says working with young teens is an exciting challenge that affords him a distinct opportunity to expand his knowledge and skills as he prepares for a career as a medical doctor. “They have very different and distinct personalities,” says Joe. “They can come up with very different ideas and solutions to problems in unconventional and creative ways.”

Joe says he’s always learning something new from his participation in the program. “MIKE provides an opportunity of working with youth to bring awareness to current health issues while developing healthy lifestyles—both physically and mentally,” says Joe.

Having earned a master’s degree in applied biotechnology at Oregon State University, Joe discovered the appeal of working directly with youth has broadened his career focus. “I love working with MIKE to engage youth to promote their success in life and build awareness in health amidst a world where healthcare issues are rising.”

Joe is taking additional classes at Portland State University as he prepares for medical school. He says the supporters who contribute to MIKE provides him with the opportunity to mentor. “It’s a great relationship on so many levels.” 

Joe guides youth through measuring blood pressure.
Joe guides youth through measuring blood pressure.
Joe gets technical.
Joe gets technical.


Cesar challenges youth to healthy snacks.
Cesar challenges youth to healthy snacks.

MIKE Program youth challenged a group of eighth-grade students to a test during the last days of school this year. The youth didn’t use paper or pencils for this test. The youth visited their local grocery store for testing materials to entice the students into a healthy snack taste test.

Cesar, one of the young men with MIKE’s afterschool program at Miller Education Center West in Hillsboro, Oregon, wanted to impress his classmates with his newly-gained skills in nutrition and cooking. He remembered watching his older peers share their healthy food ideas in years past. Now, he said it was his turn.

“Your life is only as good as your health,” said Cesar. “We need to start being healthy now.”

After months of actively participating in MIKE, the youth were determined to come up with healthy snack alternatives that their younger peers would actually prepare and eat.

Cesar and his team focused on how they could convince eighth graders that healthy snacks can be easy to make and delicious. Cesar knew that this project would involve more than posters to change minds, so he and his teammates arranged for a cooking demonstration. The youth invited their younger peers and several teachers to the presentation inside the school’s cafeteria.

Cesar and two of his classmates introduced their guests to chicken and vegetable roll-ups as a main snack or lunch item. Cesar and his teammates took turns explaining how each item contributed to a healthy diet, as they mixed the ingredients before their audience. They scooped the mix onto spinach wraps, rolled them up and served them to their eager peers.

For a second round, the team featured a fresh-fruit cup. Cesar said the combination of melons, mangoes, strawberries and lime are a traditional choice in his Latino community. He convinced his younger peers to try a cultural take with the snack by sprinkling some Pico Limon onto the fruit. The spicy seasoning added a lively flavor that intrigued the young taste-testers. By the time the eighth graders returned for more samples, the room was filled with conversations about the snacks and how to bring the ideas home.

The health leadership projects offer youth a means to connect with their communities. MIKE equips youth with the knowledge, skills and confidence to create youth-driven solutions aimed at improving health. MIKE’s health leadership projects provide youth with a community-service outreach experience for developing leadership skills and advancing health equity.

“At first MIKE seemed like just another program,” said Arlen. “But it became way more than that. It became a family-friendly environment where we not only learned and taught, but grew together as a whole.”

Of the 29 health leadership projects MIKE youth delivered this year, 35 percent were focused on healthy eating. It was the top theme of choice for the youth, who fanned out into their communities to share their ideas with more than 740 youth, families and community members.

Luis prepares for his cooking demonstration.
Luis prepares for his cooking demonstration.
MIKE youth present a healthy snacks presentation.
MIKE youth present a healthy snacks presentation.


Joe Lopez (on right) guides youth toward health.
Joe Lopez (on right) guides youth toward health.

As an athlete, MIKE mentor Joe Lopez hopes to leave a strong impression with youth at De La Salle North Catholic High School. Lopez is inspiring youth to be more active by aligning his college football success to healthy behaviors.

“I have a unique understanding of the full spectrum of health,” says Lopez. “And healthy behaviors is something that gets overlooked too much in the typical high school education.”

Lopez says his main goal with mentoring for MIKE is to help guide youth away from unhealthy behaviors while they are still young. “I think health is as essential in our lives as sleep,” Lopez adds.

Lopez recently shared his enthusiasm with his five mentees during a “Stress, Sleep and Physical Activity” carousel lesson held outside the classroom. The activity helped highlight National Sports and Physical Fitness month in a way which teenagers could absorb directly.

He engages the youth in conversations about what attitudes and barriers hindered the youth, then coaches them through problem-solving methods to help them discover their own ways for improving behaviors.

When the youth turn to Lopez with questions about his own physical activity routine, he is happy to share how he combines his love of football with staying healthy. He embeds his team-ethic strategy to encourage participation for each of his mentees. Lopez says the method is an important way for including everyone in a shared goal.

One of MIKE’s goals is to empower youth to embrace and promote healthy behaviors. MIKE health science education program mentors youth with near-age mentors who serve as guides and role models for at least one academic semester. Each mentor commits at least two hours every week with the youth in their classrooms. Some of MIKE’s mentors volunteer for more than one session. Almost all of the mentors this year participate in sports and physical activities as one way for staying healthy.

Lopez gladly shows his mentees how his favorite sport keeps him healthy. Football has been a passion for Lopez since his high school days at Central Catholic in Portland. He quickly rose to statewide recognition with roles on both offensive and defensive lines three years in a row. He returned to Central Catholic last fall to coach the varsity and junior teams. It’s a way Lopez can combine his love of the game with mentoring youth.

Football was the lead attraction for Lopez in his first years at Oregon State University. While he focused academically in Exercise and Sports Science, he earned his way onto one of Oregon’s most popular college teams as a defensive tackle. Lopez played for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, then pivoted for Portland State University’s football team and a chance to study health sciences.

Lopez discovered he wanted to work directly with youth within the health sciences profession. “I always found joy in seeing the metaphorical light bulb click on above someone’s head,” he says.

Now Lopez sees that realization each Thursday as a MIKE mentor. “I hope I will be able to make an impact in the youth’s options for careers, too.”

Youth map stress in first step for solutions.
Youth map stress in first step for solutions.


MIKE youth tour a dialysis center.
MIKE youth tour a dialysis center.

More than a dozen Liberty High School students explored a distinct segment of health care usually reserved for individuals with end-stage kidney failure. The visit last week was part of MIKE Program’s youth health science education programming. MIKE arranges field trips to dialysis centers as an opportunity for youth to experience a direct connection with health care providers and to meet with individuals undergoing treatment.

The overlying purpose of the field trip is for youth to explore the outcomes of the chronic diseases that lead to kidney failure. By equipping youth with the knowledge and skills to adopt healthier behaviors, they increase their resiliency against chronic diseases—especially mostly preventable conditions of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.

Jason Scott, RN, the group facility administrator for DaVita’s Cornell Road Dialysis Center, hosted the recent tour with the youth. After greeting the teens, Scott ushered the somewhat hesitant group into the main room. The youths’ initial anxiety quickly subsided when they each were handed a lab coat. Between the hushed giggles, Scott introduced them to the new surroundings, gathering the curious teens around one of the dialysis stations.

The flashing screen monitors immediately prompted a host of questions from the youth. Scott described how the machines cleansed blood much like the function of an actual kidney. The dialysis process takes about four-five hours at least three times a week for most individuals.

The field trip also helps youth gain knowledge about specialized health careers, and discover the academic and training requirements aligned with a variety of positions.

Scott described how a combination of academic and on-the-job training helped him prepare for his career. After completing his service with the U.S. Air Force, Scott achieved a degree at Aquinas College in Michigan to become a registered nurse. He said DaVita’s on-the-job training and support helped him further his career. Now a group facility administrator, Scott manages the entire floor of the clinic.

To provide the youth with greater understanding of the use of water in dialyzing, Scott escorted the group into the water room. The youth squeezed into the room filled with large tanks of water and purification pumps. Scott explained how the water must be purified before it can flow through the dialysis machines. “If the water is not purified, it can make the patient sick,” he said.

As one of the most popular activities in MIKE, the visit prompts youth to prepare eagerly in advance. MIKE mentors and staff guide the youth through a variety of hands-on activities to explore the functions of kidneys and other organs.

The experience of visiting a dialysis clinic provides a compelling backdrop for the youth. One young student said she now understands what her grandmother experiences with her treatment. “I know what she’s going through, now.”

Your support directly impacts youth by supporting such experiences. Together, we are equipping youth for a healthier future. 

Youth see first-hand the effects of kidney failure
Youth see first-hand the effects of kidney failure



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Organization Information

MIKE Program

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Cheryl Neal
Portland, OR United States
$2,310 raised of $272,133 goal
13 donations
$269,823 to go
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