Salinas Valley Health’s Summer Health Institute 2023 cohort is made up of local high school students. (Contributed)

SALINAS VALLEY — Salinas Valley Health’s Summer Health Institute (SHI) supports the dreams of first-generation, college-bound students by investing in the potential talents of local high school students, including those from South Monterey County.

At the same time, the unique program is an innovative way to address the critical shortage of healthcare professionals with a “grow your own” approach.

“We open up a world of opportunity for our Summer Health scholars,” said Shannon Graham, director of Volunteer and Health Career Services at Salinas Valley Health. “Summer Health Institute introduces them to the many career options in a healthcare environment and provides them with hands-on education and mentoring to pursue their passion. Many of our program graduates return to build a career at Salinas Valley Health and serve the communities where they grew up.”

SHI is an intensive five-week program designed to empower students with essential knowledge and skills through mentorships, classroom instruction, case studies, interactive workshops and real-world experiences. By immersing themselves in the healthcare environment, students gain invaluable insights into various medical disciplines, allowing them to make informed decisions about their future studies. 

There are 27 local students in the 2023 SHI cohort, including two from South Monterey County: Vanessa Romero-Serrano of King City High School and Melyna Garcia-Bravo of Greenfield High School.

Vanessa Romero-Serrano of King City High School gathers with Salinas Valley Health President/CEO Pete Delgado. (Contributed)

With her parents immigrating from Mexico and working in agriculture, Romero-Serrano is part of her family’s first generation to go to college, along with her three older siblings. She plans to pursue healthcare, just like one of her sisters is currently doing.

“Summer Health Institute has been an amazing experience, and we were exposed to so many different options. I really appreciate the opportunity,” Romero-Serrano said.

Garcia-Bravo is the oldest of two children and the first one to attend college. Her parents are Mexican immigrants who settled in Salinas, and both have contributed to the agricultural industry.

“Being the only student from Greenfield High School this year, I am extremely thankful and grateful that I was able to be part of such a wonderful program,” Garcia-Bravo said. “I was able to gain more insight, experience and knowledge about the medical field, as well as the various departments that are needed in order to have a well-functioning healthcare system.” 

Her favorite parts of SHI were all the hands-on activities, from performing a Sim Lab to holding a heart, and even getting to job shadow the various healthcare departments at Salinas Valley Health.

“This opportunity had a great impact on me and further encouraged me to pursue a medical career,” said Garcia-Bravo, who will be attending Hartnell College in the fall for pre-nursing. “I aspire and hope to one day become a labor and delivery nurse or a pediatric nurse.”

Melyna Garcia-Bravo of Greenfield High School gathers with Salinas Valley Health President/CEO Pete Delgado. (Contributed)

SHI also emphasizes the importance of community engagement and encourages students to give back through projects that address healthcare disparities and support underserved populations.

“The community advocacy projects are an important element of the Institute,” said Pete Delgado, president/CEO of Salinas Valley Health. “The students see how they can have a big impact on promoting healthy lifestyles and the importance of expanding access to care by providing underserved populations with quality care through initiatives like our Mobile Clinic.”

Students from area high schools undergo a competitive application process for the opportunity to attend SHI. The program is conducted in collaboration with Hartnell College and ROP/Health Academies, all working to expand the number of future medical professionals amid a labor shortage in the healthcare profession.

The SHI coursework culminated earlier this month with a presentation of case studies and community advocacy projects, and a formal graduation ceremony was held July 13 at Hartnell College.

Summer Health Institute students learn about operating room procedures during a demonstration. (Contributed)
Previous articleWorthy to Print Column | Lazy Days of Summer
Next articleCrowds flock to 2023 California Rodeo Salinas
Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here