Health Academy Fair underscores success of New Britain program 


Sunday, April 14, 2013 9:20 PM EDT

By Robert Storace
Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN — As he stood inside the “Mega Body” exhibit at last week’s third annual Health Academy Fair at New Britain High School, Kevin Acosta reflected on what the academy has meant to him and his fellow students.

Acosta, a 17-year-old junior, said he decided he wanted to become either a physical therapist or occupational therapist after working at the Hospital for Special Care.Acosta, who works upward of 30 hours a week at the hospital during school, said, “I learned that physical therapy is not just a job, but a lifestyle. You help people every day. You are rebuilding a person’s life. That is what I am drawn to.

Acosta said he has seen “kids walking around with oxygen tanks and people in wheelchairs. I’ve seen the care that nurses and physical therapists give every day.

Acosta and many of his 350 classmates who are enrolled in the academy attended the fair which was complete with a simulated robot that talks, blinks its eyes and breathes; a 51-foot-long mega-body exhibit, complete with anatomical parts of the heart, lungs and stomach; and various health exhibits.Those with exhibits included Central Connecticut State University, the Petit Foundation, the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Hospital for Special Care.

Mike Zayas, lead teacher of the health academy, said the fair is a testament to the academy’s success. The academy — the only one of its kind in the state — has grown from 51 students enrolled in one course in its first year in 2010 to 350 students enrolled today taking part in 10 separate courses.

“The kids are getting awareness in all major issues related to the human body and they are seeing avenues of different potential careers,” Zayas said. “We wanted to fill a need of a (health) growing career field in New Britain and the state.” Careers that students are interested in include nursing, physical therapy, public health and emergency medical technician.

Aisha Velez, a 15-year-old sophomore and future nurse, said the hands-on approach of the academy is what she liked.

“It’s meant a lot to me,” Aisha said. “I learned how to do CPR and how to work with and treat people.

The Petit Foundation awarded a $14,000 grant to help fund the mega-body exhibit. William Petit, foundation founder, attended the fair.

“One of our missions is to help educate young people, especially women in the sciences,” Petit said. “Seeing these students makes me feel hopeful. Healthcare is one of the growing fields and we need providers.

The foundation was founded to honor Petit’s wife and two young daughters, who were killed in a home invasion in Cheshire in 2007.

Robert Storace can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 223, or .