For Immediate Release
All Zones
April 24, 2001
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National Institute of Health Awards IU Northwest
$1.55 Million Grant 

Indiana University Northwest recently announced that the National Institute of Health awarded a $1.55 million grant to its Division of Allied Health to be used for a Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP). It will help disadvantaged students compete, enter and earn a degree in Respiratory Therapy, according to grant writer and project manager, Cheryl Oprisko, JD, RRT of Portage.

Oprisko, assistant professor and program director for IU Northwest's Respiratory Therapy Program, says that under the HCOP, the university will partner with Gary high schools and middle schools, the Gary Chamber of Commerce, and community organizations, local hospitals and churches. The project will promote the development of an "educational pipeline" for disadvantaged students in obtaining respiratory therapy degrees, as well as provide recruitment and preliminary education during summer and the academic year. Financial aid information, facilitation of entry activities, service learning experiences, counseling, mentoring, and other services are also a part of the program.

"Educational access is a major philosophy of Indiana University Northwest, and working together in partnerships with the community to enhance the health and well-being of Northwest Indiana is part of our Shared Vision. I feel this grant is an excellent way to help provide opportunities for the economically and academically disadvantaged," says Oprisko.

According to Oprisko, part of the program includes participation in a six-week summer program at IU Northwest geared toward preparing students for a career in respiratory therapy. Twenty-five middle school and 25 high school students from Gary, along with 15 pre-professional students may participate in the HCOP. They will receive a daily stipend for expenses while in the summer program. Thirty-nine middle and high school students will also receive a daily stipend to attend the SAT program offered by the Gary Community School System  

"I am very pleased that this grant was awarded to us, especially knowing we are the only school in the state to receive it," says Oprisko. "I look forward to working with all our community partners in providing this excellent program to Gary students. Many of these students may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college - and I'm thrilled that we are able to provide this educational opportunity to them. One of the things I really look forward to is seeing these students all the way through to graduation, and then being a vital working force in our community."

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