SOMERVILLE, NJ - A Hillsborough student is one of three sophomores from the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences at Somerset County Vocational & Technical School receiving hands-on experience uniting digital health with holistic patient care at the YMCA's Wellness program.

Krishna Mody, of Bridgewater; Mitali Patel, of Franklin; and Shanaya Sood, of Hillsborough, are working with cancer survivors and patients enrolled in the Y's LIVESTRONG at the YMCA wellness program.

The partnership supports the students' Career Pathways project, part of a nationwide SkillsUSA competition among career and technology students, during which a course of study is applied for the benefit of the community.

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"From the moment, we pitched our project idea, the Y's leadership staff has been so encouraging," Sood said. "We absolutely feel welcome here and it's been a great partnership. We are inspired by how caring and supportive the Y community is for the individuals going through a tough time in their lives."

STYR Labs, a startup personal medical device company, provided the teens with 15 fitness kits, including a wearable activity monitor, a smart water bottle and an accompanying app in return for their feedback on the prototype. The teens

"It's wonderful to see young people with such a sense of social responsibility," said Kate Russo, executive director at the Bridgewater and Somerville YMCAs. "The students have formed genuine, intergenerational friendships with them."

The teens trained the participants, many of whom are older adults, on the devices.

"There is a common misconception that seniors are not good with technology, but that was not the case at all," Patel said. "We assisted with installing the app and setting up Bluetooth, and they were up and running."

The activity tracker monitors water intake, physical activity, weight and diet. Participants said their activity went up while using the tracks, and they provided design feedback on the app and kit construction.

"When corporations and community work together, everyone benefits," Mody said. "As such young students in the health and science field, we feel fortunate to gain hands-on access to digital healthcare, patient education and community partnership experience. I think we learned just as much from the partners and participants as they hopefully did from us."

Mody, Patel, and Sood presented their project to the SkillsUSA New Jersey State Championship March 24 for a chance to compete nationwide.