Teen tests possible career paths at leadership forum

By Jonathan E. Coleman
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While many high school teenagers spent their summer working odd jobs or earn a little spending money or sitting by the pool, Anh Dinh spent her time pursuing what she hopes will eventually become a career in the medical field.

The 16-year-old Dinh, a rising junior at Hickory Ridge High School, spent 10 days this summer at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. taking part in The National Youth Leadership Forum, an independent educational organization established to help prepare young people for their professional careers. The leadership forum offers programs to allow participants to study law, medicine, national security or international youth leadership.

Dinh, who would eventually like a career in dentistry, took part in the medical tract.

“My nature has always been caring for people,” Dinh said. “That’s where my heart is. There are so many fields in medicine that you want to experience as many as you can so you know which one you want to go into.”

The leadership forum gave her that taste of various fields.

Through both lectures and hands-on activities, Dinh learned about everything from pediatric medicine to surgery.

“It was a first for me,” she said. “They allowed us to touch cadavers and we were also able to see a knee replacement. Everything was exciting and everything was different.”

Exposing children to those opportunities early on is why Diane Jackson encouraged Dinh, and others before her, to take part in the program. Jackson, a science teacher at Central Cabarrus High School, taught Dinh before the teen moved to Hickory Ridge.

“She was extremely goal-oriented, extremely mature and one of the most serious students I ever had in my class,” Jackson said.

The nearly 400 participants had an action-packed forum, Dinh said.

“They had our whole week planned out,” she recalled. “It was like college life. They gave us some reading to do before the guest speakers or before we went out to the hospitals.”

Despite what she knew would be a busy schedule, Jackson said she felt confident the Dinh would learn a great deal from the experience.

“I really feel like she had all the qualities of someone who could handle the rigors of medical school and the medical profession,” Jackson said. “They really benefit on many levels — on a (college) application to saying, ‘yeah, being a doctor looks good on ER on TV, but is it really for me?’”

For Dinh, the answer seemed to be a resounding “yes.”

Not only does the leadership forum allow students the opportunity to experience different aspects of medical field, it also gives them a chance to meet fellow teens who have similar interests.

All around, it was a good experience, she said.

“They gave me a better vision in what I want to do for my future career,” she said. “They motivated us to help make a difference in the world, encouraged us to just be ourselves, and that there’s more to a person than meets the eye.”

• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at 704-789-9105.

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