Dayja Curry knows where she’s going in life. The De La Salle North Catholic High School senior plans to be a nurse. It’s a decision she made in 2011 while participating in MIKE Program during her freshman health class.
“At first I thought it would be boring,” said Curry. “But after a few days, I felt different. I liked MIKE Program. I learned about diet, body functions and kidneys.”
Curry discovered the impact of kidney failure during a MIKE Program field trip to a dialysis clinic. “It was seeing those people in a dialysis clinic that made me want to help,” said Curry.
Kidneys are the foundation upon which MIKE Program bases its health program in schools.
With kidney failure disproportionately affecting African Americans more than other populations in the U.S., getting young people to take steps to lessen the risk is vital. In addition to anatomy, nutrition and chronic disease prevention, the MIKE Program guides young people by teaming them with near-age mentors who help them prepare and deliver a health leadership project to the community. Many MIKE Program mentors are college-aged students in health and health care degree programs.
After her initial introduction to a dialysis clinic, Curry was determined to be healthier and help others. “I never heard of a dialysis center before that,” she said. “But seeing those machines and finding out how people have to manage with dialysis, I decided how to eat better and watch myself.” For their leadership project, Curry’s team presented a kidney information poster to the Fresenius Medical Care Rose Quarter Center in Portland.
Now Curry looks at health with a deeper perspective. She said she eats more fruit and exercises regularly, though vegetables will take a bit more work. “If I could teach others, I would emphasize how important kidneys are,” Curry said. “I would show them how food and alcohol affects their bodies.”
Curry’s determination has carried her successfully through her academic life at De La Salle North. As a recipient of the 2014 Family Care Scholarship for academic excellence and community service awarded at The Skanner’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast in January, Curry reflects the emphasis placed on student success at the school.
De La Salle North prepares youth for college who experience challenges economically, socially and academically. The private school accepts families who earn 75 percent or less of Portland’s median income and are on average 1.5 years behind their peers in reading in math. By the time De La Salle North students graduate, 95 percent are accepted into college and already have a work portfolio for interning a day each week during their time at the school. De La Salle North students intern with more than 100 Portland area corporations, institutions and agencies.
During spring break, Curry senior will visit Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans where she plans to study in the fall.
For Curry being a nurse is a way to reinforce what she’s learned. “I want to help people,” said Dayja, who plans to return to Portland after college. “I want to help those in disadvantaged communities. And, I want to give back to where I came from.”