Doctor hopes Selinsgrove student mentorship program provides opportunities that aided her

Apr. 23—SELINSGROVE — Mentors were key to the success of Dr. Kelly Baldwin, a neurologist and director of medical education at Evangelical Community Hospital, as she pursued her medical degree.

Raised in a family with little money but an appreciation for higher learning, Baldwin, a Jersey Shore native, said mentors motivated her to obtain her degree and after returning to the area she wanted to give others the same opportunities.

"If it wasn't for mentors, I wouldn't have been successful," she said.

Out of that experience, Baldwin developed the BUILD program, which pairs trained mentors in the medical field with middle school students.

The pilot program launched this week at Selinsgrove Middle School, where six medical students will mentor six eighth-grade students for the next 12 months.

Selinsgrove's Career Readiness Counselor Rebecca Schaffer-Neitz said the six high-achieving students chosen to participate expressed an interest in the medical field. After an informal meeting, Baldwin paired the mentors and middle school students who will meet in person or virtually at least once a month for the next year to discuss everything from academic performance, setting goals, extra-curricular activities, work and home life.

"There's a lot of good research on the importance of mentors. Young people who have mentors guiding them are more likely to complete school and pursue their passions," said Schaffer-Neitz. "It provides extra support to these kids."

While all the participating middle school students have expressed an interest in medicine, "the goal is not to get all these kids to become doctors but to help them reach their potential," said Baldwin.

Confidence-building, career planning and helping students transition from middle to high school is the main focus, she said.

"I hope this will give students a chance to dream and feel like the sky is the limit," said Schaffer-Neitz.

Baldwin is also working to set up a similar program at Lewisburg School District and would like to expand it to other area districts.