Central LA AHEC kicks off inaugural Fast Forward Summer Camp in Natchitoches Parish 

Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center (Central LA AHEC) will kick off its 1st Annual Camp Fast Forward program this June at Northwestern State University – Natchitoches. This summer program for incoming eighth and ninth grade students will provide opportunities for health career exploration. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), promoting early interest in healthcare careers among youth from underserved areas is a promising strategy for addressing the health professional shortage in those communities. Central LA AHEC aims to increase awareness and exposure to healthcare occupations for students in middle school. Camp Fast Forward, a half-day, one-week summer camp, will allow middle school youth a hands-on introduction to health career options through simulation activities, science experiments as it relates to healthcare, CPR certification, goal setting, and planning for the future. Like all Central LA AHEC programs, this summer camp will be offered at no cost to participants. 

This year’s Camp Fast Forward program will be held Monday, June 20- Thursday, June 23 at Northwestern State University – Natchitoches. Twenty-one (21) rising eighth and ninth grade students from the following schools will participate in the program this summer:  Lakeview Junior High School, Marthaville Middle School, Natchitoches Central High School, Natchitoches Magnet School, NSU Middle Lab School, Provencal Junior High School, and St. Mary’s Catholic School.

Through multiple partnerships, this program is offered to all students in the following parishes: Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, and Winn and plans to include Allen and Vernon parishes in the future. “As the healthcare workforce shortages continue to grow, it is important to expose our students in central Louisiana to career options in healthcare and this program is designed to do just that. We hope that our programs will help students find a career they fall in love with, and in the future, come back to work in their community,” stated Gabrielle Juneau, Central LA AHEC CEO. 

This project is funded by a Future of HealthC.A.R.E. Program Grant from The Rapides Foundation. Through its Future of HealthC.A.R.E. (Career, Academic Readiness and Exploration for Students) Program Grant, the Foundation seeks to increase the number of qualified Central Louisiana students enrolling in healthcare training programs or entering into the healthcare workforce. 

Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center is a non-profit, community-based agency that serves as a training and information resource for health and educational professionals throughout a 17-parish region. One of AHEC’s primary goals is to identify local needs and develop programs that encourage health professionals to practice in rural and underserved communities where the services are most needed. Juneau said, 

Applications for next summer’s Camp Fast Forward program will be available in January 2024. For more information on Central LA AHEC and health career exploration programs offered in Central Louisiana, please visit http://www.clahec.org.