By Laine Zizka
What can a small army of nursing students do to impact public health in Fort Worth? The answer is, quite a lot.
Armed with the TCU name and a lot of passion, 12 public health nursing students have been collaborating since August to get a proposal for a walking trail extension added to the Fort Worth City bond package. It is the latest work in a partnership between Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD and the Texas Christian University nursing program.
The students are focusing on is a stretch of land between Bailey Boswell High School and Chisholm Trail High School along the Marine Creek Reservoir – an unwalkable area that affects numerous schools, community centers, and parks. By extending the existing trail to the proposed route, the Anderson Trail Extension, students and community members would have a place to walk safely.
“We’ve already got land easements, so we’re not asking for the land; we’ve got the land,” said nursing student Holly Hopkins. “We’re asking for cement to be put down from Chisholm Trail High School to Bailey Boswell High School – 3.7 miles.”
This comes after a fatal car crash last year that brought the safety of pedestrians to the forefront of the district’s consciousness. After hearing about TCU’s previous public health initiative success, Dr. Jim Chadwell, superintendent of the Eagle Mountain Saginaw school district, approached TCU Nursing.
“We said yes,” said Dr. Danielle Walker, an assistant professor of nursing at TCU and the clinical’s advisor – or “resident expert,” as she likes to call herself. “In this classroom…we do so many different things and have people asking us to be part of their projects all the time. It’s really kind of neat.”
A trip to the Eagle Mountain Saginaw community showed the gravity of the project. The area lacked sidewalks, with only grassy ditches to fill the space. Though it was assigned as the students’ public health clinical, the project has found a place in their hearts.
“We have all taken ownership of it because it is really fun to be involved with the community and to give them something that they desperately need – which is an area to walk, where their kids can walk safely without the threat of being hit by a car,” said nursing major Lauren Scruggs. “Something needed to be changed in the community.”
Since then, the students have gone to bond meetings, HOA meetings, PTA meetings, stood outside of Kroger tabling – they even attended a recent trunk-or-treat event. Every meeting attended, speech given, and pin passed out is a result of the intense team collaboration. They live, eat, and breathe the Anderson Trail Extension.
“I think it ties together this aspect of health in a sense that it’s not just being at a patient’s bedside in the hospital, it’s very much about community organizing and health promotion and going out into the community and raising awareness,” Hopkins said.
The group has attended close to 15 bond meetings since August, appearing at the last one Oct. 23 at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. As of November, the council will begin reviewing how the trail extension proposal fit into the bond package, ultimately making the final decision in February.
“Our mission this time was to advocate to get our trail extension proposal added on to the 2018 bond package,” Hopkins said. “Next year, when a new cohort comes in and takes the public health clinical…they have to take what we’ve done, no matter what it is, and go from there.”
That could mean moving forward after the proposal passing, or assessing what to do next. If the trail extension were to be funded, it would be a matter of actually getting the 3.7 miles of trail built.
The cohort sees power in their position as students, believing they can have a major impact on organizing and campaigning in community.
“Students can actually make the biggest change,” said team leader, Kamilah Hyder. “If you look at other countries and see policies that happen towards education, it’s the students that have the voice. We’re involved in nursing as students. I think that makes the biggest impact on healthcare in the community.”
There is a Facebook page dedicated to the Anderson Trail Extension, as the cohort seeks followers and support as the review of the bond package is underway. The next five weeks won’t be a walk in the park, filled instead with data compilation and presentation preparation until the group signs off.
“It’s kind of like winning a race,” said Hopkins. “You’ve gone so far up until this point and now you just need to cross the finish line.”