NEWPORT -- Many of the students who took part in a Microsoft Office training at North Country Hospital in Newport in recent weeks have advanced degrees and are seasoned members of the health care world. On the other hand, the mentors of the course were students from Lake Region Union High School, many of them members of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

The high school students used their technological savvy to help teach health care professionals in Microsoft Office 2010, the latest version of the program.

"They were excellent students," Brittany Downs said. "They weren't afraid to ask questions." She and the other high school students involved also spoke about what they learned in helping their adult students learn valuable new skills. Brittany, who served as the Data Base administrator for the course, said the collaboration helped her build confidence to utilize the skills she has learned in class to educate others.

The collaborative relationship came out of a need for the high school students to raise money to attend the Future Business Leaders of America 2013 National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, Calif., June 22-July 1. Sierra Cortez, a member of FBLA whose mother works at the hospital, and Betsy Calhoun, the high school's Business Department chairperson and FBLA advisor, along with FBLA member, Sydney Whipple, met with Claudio Fort, president and CEO of the hospital. Instead of NCH simply giving the group a donation, the four of them hatched a plan to form a collaborative working relationship in which everybody won.

The high school students involved were Sierra Cortez, Brittany Downs, Gabrielle Granai, Brittany Menken, Keisha Paddleford, Chelsea Rowell and Sydney Whipple.

The extremely challenging course lasted eight weeks. Participants worked at their own pace from a book, and with hands-on experience. The young mentors regularly traveled from the high school to the hospital to work with their students and answer any questions which had arisen since they'd last met.

"The opportunity to collaborate with the Lake Region FBLA group on this training was extremely timely," Kate Pierce, director of Clinical Informatics for North Country Hospital, said. "The hospital had just upgraded our Microsoft Office Suite from 2003 to 2010, which was a significant change for our staff. The FBLA group approached the hospital with a proposal to help some of our staff receive Microsoft Office training, and even become Microsoft certified experts. We identified staff in key areas that were either heavy users of the MS Office tools or were in a position to provide training and support throughout the facility.

Overall, this was a win-win for everyone involved. The students were able to raise funds for their upcoming FBLA trip, the hospital is now equipped with staff members trained and certified in the various Microsoft Office tools, and are able to assist others throughout the facility with questions and provide training, as needed," concluded Kate, who worked with Betsy to develop and manage the project.

"This authentic Microsoft Office 2010 training collaboration helped my students to recognize the very real connections between high school opportunities and becoming college & career ready," Betsy said. "Being able to successfully provide a supportive personal learning environment for the professional staff members who participated has greatly increased their own confidence and motivation to learn. We plan to seek out additional business partners who are interested in becoming more proficient in MS Office applications like Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and Access."

The hospital employees who took part in the collaboration also had high praise for the experience and for their student mentors.

"The collaboration between FBLA and the hospital provided an opportunity to learn so much valuable information in the features and abilities available in the Microsoft Office 2010 applications," Carol Casey said. "The opportunity to have assistance and support as I learned with the tools provided has made it attainable to learn more than I could ever do on my own. Also the ability to become Microsoft Certified in one or more applications has made me feel that I have accomplished something valuable personally, and has already made a difference in the support I can provide to other staff at NCH."

Pauline White commented "Helen Keller once said: 'Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. I struggled to do the Microsoft Office certifications on my own. I bought the books and other tools, but just did not seem to find the time or motivation to get started. The collaboration provided the right amount of support and motivation I needed to help me accomplish my goals."

"Not only was this a great opportunity to broaden and strengthen our skills in the applications we use every day, but it also allowed us to learn and teach across generations. It was an outstanding learning experience for everybody involved," said Penny Wheeler.

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