PA students work with ACES Mill Road School students

Quinnipiac University physician assistant graduate students Jen Boyd, left, and Jen Fahey help ACES Mill Road School fifth-grader Lazarus Graham-Hilton develop more effective ways to brush his teeth at a health and literacy fair at the North Haven K-8 school on April 26.

May 2, 2013 - Quinnipiac University and ACES Mill Road School celebrated a sixth year of collaboration with a reading and health fair on April 26 at the North Haven K-8 school.

Fifty-eight physician assistant students in Quinnipiac's School of Health Sciences have spent the academic year working with the school students to improve literacy, fitness and nutritional awareness.

Each of the school's approximately 175 students received a new book, toothpaste, deodorant, a tooth brush and healthy snacks while competing in fitness and related trivia challenges at the fair.

"We are hoping to encourage a passion for literacy and fitness," said Cynthia Lord, clinical associate professor and director of the physician assistant program at Quinnipiac. "We hope the ACES Mill Road students will influence their families to make healthy choices."

After working one-on-one each week, the students from both schools came together for a day of fun and learning. Through encouragement, the school students demonstrated all they learned with the support of the graduate students.

"This is one of our most valued programs," said Michelle Goldstein, a second- and third-grade teacher at ACES Mill Road School.

Lord said her students also benefit from the experience.

"It puts things into perspective," said Jen Fahey, a first-year physician assistant graduate student who was dressed as the tooth fairy to better motivate the younger students of the value of strong oral hygiene. "This partnership has given me a better understanding on the various backgrounds from which my patients may come."

Cristina Comparetto, who is also a first-year graduate student in the program, said she enjoyed working with the students throughout the past eight months.

"It's been an eye-opening experience for me," Comparetto said. "It's nice to see that we've made a real impact in these students' lives."

The Quinnipiac physician assistant students read to the ACES Mill Road students twice each week during the academic year. In addition, the graduate students work with the children to help them develop healthier eating habits by assessing their lunches using the Nutrition Detective Program, which teaches them how to read food labels and detecting marketing deceptions while learning to identify and choose health foods.