May 26, 2021, Durham, NC – innovation Research & Training welcomes two new graduate student interns this summer. The interns will contribute their expertise to our projects on educating teens about participating in a research project and STEM .

“We are delighted to welcome Yontii and Kathryn,” said Dr. Janis Kupersmidt, the President of iRT. “Their exceptional experience, unique perspectives, and academic prowess will enrich our work on these federally funded projects, as well as the products being developed through these awards.”

The Graduate Student Interns

Yontii Wheeler is pursuing her Master of Public Health with a Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights concentration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Wheeler will assist in adapting and expanding the evidence-based, online mentor training course, Building the Foundation , for volunteers interested in becoming a mentor in a STEM mentoring program. In addition, she will help to ensure that the program incorporates cultural competency training throughout the course and that teaching mentors to promote racial equity remains at the forefront of the work. As a former middle school math teacher and mentor, Ms. Wheeler is excited to merge her passions for public health, education, and building strengths in students.

Kathryn Kennedy is pursuing her Master of Public Health with a Health Behavior concentration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Kennedy will help develop new investigation modules covering organ functions and tests that are used in clinical trials research for the DigiKnowIt News: Teen product. She will also assist with writing a manuscript for a planned randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of the DigiKnowIt News: Teen program with teens and their parents. Ms. Kennedy is committed to helping patients become their own advocates through adolescent care and pediatric clinical trials.

The Products

Building the Foundation (BTF) prepares volunteers to be a knowledgeable, effective, and supportive mentor in a mentoring relationship with children or adolescents. There are multiple versions of the Building the Foundation course, because of the wide variety of models used by mentoring programs. The versions include one-to-one, one-to-one, site-based mentoring; community-based mentoring; group-based mentoring; mentoring young adults; and most recently, e-Mentoring for virtual mentoring relationships. BTF includes the foundational topics that all mentors need to feel prepared and ready to begin their mentoring relationship. Stay tuned for news about the development of the STEM mentor training course this summer.

DigiKnowIt News provides children and teens with information about what it means to participate in a research project, in general, as well as specific information about what it means to participate in a clinical trial. Youth learn about the particular medical procedures that they will experience in a specific research study. DigiKnowIt News serves as a general education tool that can help families understand and prepare for participation in a study. As reported in a new paper in the Journal of Child Health Care, children demonstrated significantly more knowledge about clinical trials after using DigiKnowIt News. Given the beneficial impact of DigiKnowIt News on knowledge about research, the development of the teen version is currently underway.

Both interns will offer valuable contributions to supplement the development and evaluation of these new products. These team additions strengthen our mission of providing research-based and outcome-driven products and services to improve the health and well-being of children, adolescents, families, child-serving organizations, and communities.