Passport to Health

Passport to Health

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) and Cleveland Clinic collaborated on a new immersive program called Passport to Health.

A group of 100 high school students from the Cleveland Clinic’s Stokes Scholars Internship program participated in Passport to Health over the course of three weeks in July and August.

In June 2016, Cleveland Clinic launched the Stokes Scholars Internship program to give high school students in the Cleveland area the opportunity to learn and work alongside world-renowned caregivers at Cleveland Clinic. The nine-week Louis Stokes Internship Program was formulated to inspire students to embrace a variety of disciplines and to foster skills that will help them become life-long learners.

Deborah Gordon, a trustee of CVSR and senior director of operations, government & community relations for the Cleveland Clinic, worked closely with CVSR, its partners and Akron General Cleveland Clinic to create an opportunity for the Stokes interns to visit and learn about the history of the Cuyahoga Valley area, health and wellness and career opportunities at Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“To educate and inspire the teens through this experience required our team to think strategically about what will engage the students and also teach them about the value of the environment surrounding them,” said Gordon. “This was not an easy accomplishment, but with the collaboration of the Akron General Cleveland Clinic, CVNP, Countryside Conservancy and CVSR – the program provided an experience for some students who did not know the park, railroad or farms existed.”

The Passport to Health program ran on July 20, 22, 27, 29 and August 3. Each day, the interns had the opportunity to take the train and visit various locations within Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Day 1, July 20: Departing the train from Rockside station, the interns met CVSR trainmen, conductors and volunteers. They learned about the wildlife in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and learned about the history of the railroad and Cuyahoga Valley area.

Day 2, July 22: The interns took the train to Fitzwater train yard. They received a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities and learned about train operations, maintenance and equipment. The interns also received a tour of the interior the renovated St. Lucie Sound car and caboose.

Day 3, July 27: At Countryside Conservancy farms, the students first stopped at Goatfeathers Point Farm where they learned about farming within Cuyahoga Valley National Park and had the chance to get up close to pigs, goats, chickens and turkeys and learn about sustainable farming. They also visited Greenfield Berry Farm where they learned from a farmer about his career, berry farming and Greenfield’s commitment to organic farming practices.

Day 4, July 29: The interns learned about special programming on the train and participated in a health & fitness-themed Murder Mystery program, interacting with professional actors on board and role-playing as suspects and detectives.

Day 5: August 3: The interns met with Cuyahoga Valley National Park Rangers and learned about career opportunities with the National Park Service. They hiked the towpath trails and visited the Boston Visitor Center. On the train ride back, Sue Hobson, director of regional community outreach, government & community relations of Cleveland Clinic Akron General arranged for a dietician and exercise physiologist to educate the interns on the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet.

At the beginning of the program, Cleveland Clinic distributed notebooks to the interns. The goal was to evaluate what they learned each day throughout the experience and to evaluate the program as a whole.

The results illustrated that the interns gained a better understanding of CVNP, CVSR, volunteer and career opportunities as well as the health benefits of being active in the park.

Prior to the program, over 90% of the interns reported they never knew about the train or the national parks. At the conclusion of the program, over 80% commented on the ways that the CVNP and CVSR use tools such as walking and biking to help people stay healthy.

“We got to know about what the park rangers do. We also learned about the history of the national parks like Yellowstone.  It takes a lot of volunteers to make things happen,” said Bailey Patterson, a Stokes intern.

Kim Gillan-Shafron, sr. director of marketing, strategy & customer experience of CVSR said the program was a great opportunity to not only introduce the interns to CVNP and CVSR, but to also expose them to non-traditional careers and the positive impact that volunteers have in non-profit organizations.

“It was a wonderful experience for our team as we watched these students meet; accountants, teachers, professors, and others who volunteer, while we introduced them to historians, farmers, actors and park rangers,” said Gillan-Shafron.

CVSR’s President & CEO Craig Tallman said that he is pleased to partner with the Cleveland Clinic on this new educational program.

“We at CVSR are excited to become more involved in community outreach efforts and educational opportunities,” said Tallman. “We are grateful for our partnership with Cleveland Clinic and hope to continue providing students the opportunity to experience and learn about Cuyahoga Valley National Park, CVSR and its partners.”

The Stokes interns graduated from the program on Friday, August 5 and showcased what they learned at the Summer Internship Programs Graduation Celebration at the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center.

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Lynee Bixler