Promote health in 100 teens in Portland, Oregon

by MIKE Program
MIKE Program Mentor Elena Phoutrides
MIKE Program Mentor Elena Phoutrides

MIKE Program Mentor of the Month: Elena Phoutrides

One of the things that separates MIKE Program from many youth-based programs is our mentoring component. Elena Phoutrides is one example of why MIKE Program mentors contribute to healthy relationships for teens.

Elena mentors at De La Salle North Catholic High School. She dedicates time each week guiding a group of ninth graders toward healthier lifestyles—all the while being a second-year medical student at OHSU. “I want to become better at motivating individuals to get excited about their health and about how their bodies work,” she says.

Elena has studied in Nepal and worked in Uganda with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. Born and raised in Portland, she graduated from Boston University with a degree in biology. She returned to Portland to pursue a medical degree at OHSU.

In addition to mentoring with MIKE Program, Elena is helping with our latest revision of MIKE Program’s health curriculum. What better way for curriculum enhancement than with individual’s who use the curriculum in real life settings? Elena is looking at ways to bridge the multi-faceted components together, providing more flexibility and options for teachers and mentors at various sites.

Giving Mentors the Tools They Need

Mentoring is as much about learning as it is about sharing knowledge. So, two teams of OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) students with the graduate program in Human Nutrition have developed a training module for MIKE Program mentors which encompasses an array of information that works with their schedules.

Team No. 1, consisting of Jane Riebold and Madeline Kinzly, developed the module with MIKE Program Board of Directors member Dave Chapman and President Cheryl Neal, MD. The module focuses on nutrition, along with best practices and information to help mentors choose the best food sources for snacks.

MIKE Program mentors reinforce healthy eating each week by bringing in healthy snacks each week to share with the class. Youth have an opportunity to try new foods and learn about what foods offer the best nutrition.

Team No. 2, consisting of Jeremy O’Neal and Emily Blachley, enhanced the module with updates and training sessions.

Once the module is live, MIKE Program mentors will have access to effective ways to make certain they are equipped with the information they need to be healthy role models.

OHSU Dietetic Intern Madeline Kinzly in class
OHSU Dietetic Intern Madeline Kinzly in class
OHSU Dietetic Interns O
OHSU Dietetic Interns O'Neal and Blachley


Tigest Mequanint interns at MIKE Program
Tigest Mequanint interns at MIKE Program

MIKE Program's summer is sizzling with support from individuals and Juan Young Trust:

  • Meet Tigest Mequanint who is interning with MIKE Program before she heads off to the University of Oregon to begin her studies in medicine
  • Juan Young Trust awards MIKE Program a grant to support efforts in steering teens towards healthier foods
  • Sofia Murfitt, a MIKE Program mentor last school year, joins us as an intern this summer

MIKE Program is Great Fit for Pre-Med Student Tigest Mequanint

Tigest Mequanint is ready to begin the next step toward her dream of becoming a doctor. She is already gaining an impressive resume of skills and experiences, one of which is interning at MIKE Program through Worksystems’ SummerWorks program. Since she was a young student in Ethiopia, healthcare has been a focus for Tigest.

“I was very happy when Worksystems told me that I would be placed at MIKE Program,” said Tigest, who wanted something connect to the medical field for her first job. “It’s my first paying job and it’s a good one!”

Before she begins her undergraduate studies in biology this fall in Eugene, Tigest is helping MIKE Program with a variety of tasks—from data entry to organizing youth surveys to gain awareness of nonprofit efforts in healthcare and education. She is one of 530 young people who were placed in summer jobs through Worksystems’ SummerWorks program. The program is geared to help young people, 97 percent of whom are low-income and 63 percent of color, prepare for post-secondary education and career-ladder employment. The nonprofit organization, based in Portland, serves youth and adults throughout the city and in Multnomah and Washington Counties.

Her assignment with MIKE Program helps Tigest gain greater insight into the many possibilities in healthcare. She said she’s considering all sectors of the industry. “You can study many fields, here,” she said, who is currently interested in cancer research. “When I hear about cancer, ooh,” she sighs. “I wish there was something I could do to make it better.”

Tigest’s interest in medicine began at a young age, when her mother was a nursing assistant. She says no one in her family had a particular interest in medicine, but for Tigest it was the only career field she thought about. Her goals are to open a medical practice of her own, one day. (Catch our blog on our website link below for more on Tigest.)

Making a Healthy Choice

MIKE Program teens will receive an extra serving of support in making healthier food choices with recent funding from Juan Young Trust. The 2013-2014 grant award will help MIKE Program steer teens toward nutritious snacks and water as they learn about healthier lifestyles.

MIKE Program connects near-age mentors with teens in the classroom to prepare young people to be health leaders. The mentors, many of whom are health professions students, make a point of choosing healthy food options by bringing healthy snacks to the start of class each week. The teens get a chance to adapt to new foods or new combinations of nutritious options. The weekly activity helps the mentors build positive relationships with the teens while reinforcing healthier behaviors.

MIKE Program provides a comprehensive health curriculum with hands-on activities, which includes a practical health planner, shopping guide and field trips. The program culminates in a health leadership project which teams the teens in projects which they create to extend their healthy message to others. In previous years, the teens have taken their healthy messages to elementary schools, nonprofit organizations and created videos to get the word out.

The Juan Young Trust grant goes to support MIKE Program’s curriculum and supplemental materials and strengthen the efforts of the mentors with the teens in the classroom. Juan Young Trust, an Oregon charitable foundation, awards grants to nonprofit organizations in the state which promote health, education and welfare of children under 21 years old. 

Mentor Sofia Murfitt Returns to MIKE Program

Sofia Murfitt leads a busy life. In her final year at Portland State University in the Child and Family Studies program, Sofia sought to add to her academic load with an internship at MIKE Program this summer.

Her connection to MIKE Program began last January when she successfully applied to become a mentor at one of the program sites in North Portland. Now she's looking to build awareness and healthier lives with a new team of mentors as the organization gears up for the new academic year.

Sofia has always been interested in working with youth. She completed a practicum as a teaching assistant and tutored ESL youth during her high school days at Roosevelt High School. Since then, she's focused on how she can benefit youth, especially with their health. She hopes to work in a school-based healthcare environment in the future.

Until then, Sofia will provide support for MIKE Program's Kristin Dreves to train new mentors entering the program. Sofia also plans to return mentoring with MIKE Program in the coming year.

Juan Young Trust helps serve up healthy choices
Juan Young Trust helps serve up healthy choices
Sofia Murfitt mentors youth
Sofia Murfitt mentors youth


MIKE Program Youth at Miller Education Center
MIKE Program Youth at Miller Education Center

Teens Teaching Teens with a “Kidney Karnival”

Convincing eighth graders that they can manage the health of their kidneys may be a hard sell for some. Such information is usually shrugged off until much later in life. But as MIKE Program youth have found, it’s important to share the information with teens who are beginning to establish life-long habits. So when 25 teens enrolled in MIKE Program’s afterschool program were planning their Health Leadership Project they knew just how to convey the message—with a “Kidney Karnival.”

Together with their health teacher, Therese Rice, and mentors Shannon Douglas, Christine Meyers and Kim Whitney, the teens developed an afternoon of instructional fun for their younger peers. The teens presented the information through interactive games to gently introduce important information that their younger peers would understand.

The eighth graders rotated between four separate stations which provided short demonstrations and games. The station themes included anatomy of a kidney, make-a-kidney, kidney vocabulary and kidney function. The youth used many of the same curriculum materials from which they learned about kidneys to help reinforce their newly-gained knowledge.


Teens Teaching Teens with a Health Fair

MIKE Program youth at Rosemary Anderson High School used a similar concept for their Health Leadership Project, yet on a much grander scale. They hosted a Health Fair for their entire school. Besides hosting multiple stations which focused on physical fitness, the fair offered an aerobic and blood pressure clinic, a cooking healthy station and a competitive tug-of-war.

Volunteers from OHSU monitored the aerobic and blood pressure clinics, providing students with an immediate response to checking vitals. Besides giving the young medical students an opportunity to work with the teens, the youth were exposed to a variety of health careers.

Rosemary Anderson High School alumnus Jasmyne Romero hosted a healthy food station, where she demonstrated how to make a healthy pasta dish. Now starting her professional career at Veritable Quandary, Romero shared her thoughts about cooking healthy with the teens, then served up a yummy example.

MIKE Program Advisory Board member Kim Filla, director of community programs at the school, along with MIKE Program site facilitators, Leigh Rappaport and Mike Napoli, who host MIKE Program in their Health/Leadership Academy and Science classes, supported the youth in hosting the annual event. Filla started the event off with a school-wide physical activity. “Research shows that youth need to do some type of exercise that raises their heart rate,” said Filla, who has 15 years as a physical fitness trainer. “Just by increasing exercise, you can relieve stress and depression.”

For the youth, like project coordinators Marz and Dashanique, the event helps shape leadership skills and bolsters self-confidence, while allowing the teens to share what they learned with others. The pair worked with their fellow classmates to organize the events, plan a healthy lunch menu, make posters and invite volunteers. The MIKE Program youth were cheered by their school mates before they led the school to lunch.

After rousing games of hoops, double-dutch, relays and push up competitions, the school converged on the gym floor for a series of tug-of-war challenges. Even the staff and teachers joined in the fun. The event culminated in a healthy burrito lunch.


Teens Teaching Teens Thrive with Teachers

David Mickola, health teacher at De La Salle North Catholic High School, was recognized recently for his outstanding work and partnership with MIKE Program. Mickola, who teaches freshman health and physical education at De La Salle North Catholic High School, has been an integral part of the success of the program at the school. He participates with great enthusiasm during the individual lesson plans, as well as offering his support for the teens’ Health Leadership Projects.

Now, finishing his fourth year with MIKE Program, Mickola also serves with the organization’s Education and Mentoring Committee. The committee is busy working on revisions to the curriculum and other support materials. Mickola even wrote an article about MIKE Program for his school’s newsletter earlier this year.

MIKE Program trumpets Mickola’s recognition and his dedication to improving the lives of young people! Partnerships with teachers like Mickola truly encourage healthier futures for teens.

MIKE Program Youth at Rosemary Anderson HS
MIKE Program Youth at Rosemary Anderson HS
MIKE Program Site Facilitator David Mickola
MIKE Program Site Facilitator David Mickola


Mentor Mariel Orbita (on left) congratulates Anna
Mentor Mariel Orbita (on left) congratulates Anna

MIKE Program Mentors Mark Closure with Achievements

A highlight of mentoring with MIKE Program is the program closing ceremony. The activity marks the accomplishments of both the youth and mentors.

Ten mentors volunteered for the fall semester at De La Salle North Catholic High School. Their efforts encouraged 48 freshmen to gain knowledge and skills to lead healthier lives. Anna, one of the freshmen in the program, noted that MIKE Program “helped me put my mind in the right direction for being healthy.”

Anna was teamed with Mentor Mariel Orbita who chose MIKE Program to make a difference in the lives of young people. “I strongly believe that the most effective way to impact health in our current society is by starting at the source,” said Mariel, a nursing student at the University of Portland. “I believe that a mentor can have such a large impact on a student as they are readily available as a resource and as a person who can guide them without much of the pressure that one can feel from someone in an authority position.”

The mentors, many of whom are health professions students at Portland State University, University of Portland, Marylhurst University and Linfield College, contributed a combined total of 324 classroom hours, in addition to training and other preparation time. Others making such commitments with Mariel included: Danielle Ali-Cassim, Richard Burton, Ali Duffens, Cody Gehring, Greg Kluthe, Ryan McCurine, Arie Roskott, Sunshine Taylor and MIKE Program’s Kim Whitney.

Each mentor worked with a group of four or five teens, who celebrated the achievements of the youth by handing out certificates and youth-designed t-shirts. The t-shirts reflected healthy messages which help the youth spread the word after the semester ends.

Five mentors, including MIKE Program’s Kim Whitney, extended their commitment to De La Salle North Catholic High School for the Spring 2013 semester.


MIKE Program Youth Mix Health, Exercise and Nutrition in Outreach Efforts

A key component of MIKE Program is the outreach youth undertake with their Health Leadership Projects. The outreach activities provide the youth with opportunities to share what they learned about making healthier choices. For 48 freshmen at De La Salle North Catholic High School this past month, their efforts connected them and their healthy messages to 190 other young people in Portland.

The youth fanned out in teams of four to six for presentations at local elementary and middle schools. Kim Whitney, Program Coordinator with MIKE Program, accompanied her team to Holy Cross School for a presentation on physical fitness for fifth graders. The team created a “Kidney Facts” basketball game activity for a fun way to show how physical activity contributes to good health.

Mentor Cody Gehring’s team presented “A Day in the Life of MIKE Program” with a condensed version of several hands-on learning activities for eighth graders at George Middle School, while Richard Burton’s team visited Sabin Elementary School to guide youngsters through a “Make a Kidney” activity. For Vanessa, who teamed with Richard’s group, the best part of MIKE Program was “getting to go and teach others about kidneys.”

The MIKE Program Health Leadership Projects are youth-driven to better reinforce their experiences and knowledge.

It's basketball and kidneys for this youth project
Youth show "A Day in the Life of MIKE Program"
Youth show "A Day in the Life of MIKE Program"


MIKE Program Mentor Richard Burton
MIKE Program Mentor Richard Burton

MIKE Program Mentors Guide Youth to Healthy Lifestyles

When MIKE Program Mentor Richard Burton showed up in a wheelchair last month, participants in his ninth grade team were concerned for his well-being. They asked Richard what happened and then proceeded to pray for him at the beginning of class. Richard mentors at De La Salle North Catholic High School, a faith-based, college preparatory school which serves low income youth. Each class period begins with a prayer.

“My injuries were mentioned and for that I am grateful,” said Richard, who had wrenched his back. As a nursing student at Linfield College School of Nursing, Richard arrives with the health of his team in mind, so when they reciprocated, he realized his impact was far greater than he could have imagined.

Mentoring provides Richard Burton with the opportunity to encourage young people toward healthier lifestyles. He arrives at De La Salle North Catholic High School once a week to share his knowledge, skills and values for healthy behaviors. “Becoming a nurse has changed my way of looking at health and I hope to pass on the importance of being healthy and the skills to do so,” said Richard. “I hope to encourage young people to think more about the consequences of their lifestyle choices at a younger age.”

Richard looks to instill the importance of improving behaviors in nutrition, exercise and other health factors with young people because he deals with the consequences of chronic diseases in his training and work. The majority of cases of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are potentially preventable, and Richard says he wants people to be aware of the effects of their actions.

“I decided to volunteer as a mentor because I wanted to be a part of the educational community that helps young people value healthy lifestyle choices,” said Richard. “I want to empower these young people with knowledge and values that I didn’t have as a young person.  As a nursing student, I have a specialized knowledge and skill set that I would like to pass on to open new possibilities in healthcare and in healthy lifestyle choices.”


Kidney Anatomy Takes Center Stage

Equipping teens to understand the functions of their kidneys can be daunting. That’s why MIKE Program uses a combination of hands-on activities, discussions and a few unique visual aids to pique the teens’ interest.

When Kim Whitney, Program Coordinator at MIKE Program, arrived at Rosemary Anderson High School with a four-foot wooden kidney, the teens responded with interest and questions. Kim guided the class through a discussion on the functions of human kidneys as she pointed out the main features of the vital organ.

Kim also serves as one of four mentors who mentor youth each week at Rosemary Anderson High School. The North Portland school is an alternative high school serving high needs youth. Partnering with MIKE Program, the school is implementing MIKE Program’s comprehensive health curriculum as a core subject for the more academically prepared youth at the school this year.

The emphasis on kidneys helps the teens understand how their choices and behaviors affect their health throughout their lives. By guiding them toward healthier decisions, MIKE Program aims to empower them to avoid lifestyles that lead to the main chronic conditions causing kidney failure: obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Kim and the other mentors, Charles Amos, Marissa Polowitz and Kelly Teav, find that the teens respond enthusiastically to hands-on activities which reinforce other information. They also share healthy snacks at the beginning of class, introducing foods that offer better nutrition and establishing new habits. It’s a hands-on activity the teens look forward to each week.


MIKE Program Poster Presented at the Annual SOPHE Meeting

Some of the outcomes of the partnership between MIKE Program and Pacific University’s School of Professional Psychology extend far beyond the data measuring the program’s impact on youth. As an example, the university’s poster presentation showcasing MIKE Program data was accepted by the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) for their annual meeting in October.  Now that’s a positive outcome! 

Directed by Susan Li, PhD, Professor at Pacific University’s School of Professional Psychology, a team of doctoral candidates are researching the effect of MIKE Program on youth. The SOPHE presentation was the fourth scientific stage to showcase their findings in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Laura Pagenstecher presented the poster, which featured findings across five cohorts, at the annual SOPHE meeting. According to the research findings, “MIKE Program showed consistent positive effects on health self-efficacy and knowledge of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). The Pacific University team concluded, “MIKE Program’s emphasis on participatory learning and youth leadership as community health ambassadors may be a critical component in creating both personal and school-wide changes in health behaviors.”

Kim Whitney with A Wooden Kidney
Kim Whitney with A Wooden Kidney
Laura Pagenstecher presents poster at SOPHE
Laura Pagenstecher presents poster at SOPHE



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Organization Information

MIKE Program

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Cheryl Neal
Portland, OR United States
$2,260 raised of $272,133 goal
11 donations
$269,873 to go
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