AHEC - North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program
Touched by an AHEC: Stories from 100 Counties
Cynthia Coy

Cynthia Coy

Jackson County | Mountain AHEC

Cynthia Coy, first Mountain AHEC Health Careers intern, master’s trained social worker

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” – Forest Witcraft

In the summer of 1997, with college still many years away, Cynthia Coy dreamed of becoming a health care professional.

Cynthia’s initial exposure to the health care environment came when she attended the 1997 Health Careers Summer Camp sponsored by Mountain AHEC (MAHEC) and Western Carolina University. The purpose of the camp is to increase eighth grade students’ knowledge and awareness of career opportunities in the health care field. Also in 1997, employees of MAHEC’s Information Systems Division attended the Leland Kaiser Healthy Communities Conference where we became inspired to develop an internship program for high school students wishing to explore health careers.

After reviewing many student profiles from Health Careers Summer Camp participants, Cynthia was selected as MAHEC’s first Health Careers intern. It was important that our first intern be able to work with us – a group of sometimes intimidating information science professionals – to redesign and refine the intern program. In addition to the newness of our program, Cynthia was immersed among 20 complete strangers doing, what must have appeared to her, even stranger work. This would have cowed many adolescents, but Cynthia seemed to appreciate from the very beginning the opportunity laid before her.

During her MAHEC internship, Cynthia just blossomed. She came to us with strong family support and a firm appreciation and respect for others but she was oh, so shy! As she tackled increasingly difficult tasks, her confidence grew and her shyness faded. She quickly became integrated into our work life and became “one of us” which is quite remarkable given her age at the time and the type of work we do. MAHEC continued to support and encourage Cynthia for the remainder of her high school career including participating in school projects, the college application process and various employment opportunities along the way.

In the spring of 2004 Cynthia came one step closer to her dream of being a health care professional when she graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College with a bachelor’s degree in human community service and a minor in psychology. But she didn’t stop there; she continued on to graduate school to pursue her master’s degree in social work.

Cynthia continues to look to MAHEC and AHEC resources for guidance along her career path, calling just this week to ask for a letter of reference. The close friends that she cherishes to this day at MAHEC were proud to attend her college graduation in 2004 and were honored to watch her walk down the aisle at her wedding in 2007. We are very humbled to have positively affected Cynthia’s life and the lives of those she will touch as a health care professional.