ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While some students head to the band room or the gym for their elective classes, one group of Albuquerque students heads to Presbyterian hospital on Monday and Thursday afternoons.
The students are enrolled in an elective class designed to prepare them for careers in health care. The class is offered through Running Start for Careers, a partnership among the city of Albuquerque, Albuquerque Public Schools, Central New Mexico Community College, and a variety of businesses and charter schools.
The partnership began last school year, with elective classes in the construction and film trades. This year, three more programs were rolled out, in health care, financial services, and hotels and tourism. Students from around the district take the classes as electives, and receive dual high school credit and college credit from CNM.
Mayor Richard J. Berry, who has been the driving force behind the program, said he hopes it will benefit both students and industry. He said students may be more invested in school if they can see how the things they’re learning connect to future job opportunities.
“We’re trying to make sure that students stay interested in high school, stay in school, but as importantly, learn the skill sets that are required to thrive and succeed,” he said.
Kathy Davis, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said the program will help ensure Presbyterian has the kind of educated workers it needs.
“This is really a part of developing that strong, diverse future health care workforce that New Mexico very much needs,” she said.
Students enrolled in the health care elective come from schools all over the city and have a variety of ambitions.
Carmen Martinez, a 17-year-old senior at Los Puentes charter school, said she has wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl. She said she comes from an immigrant family and her parents, who never graduated from high school, pushed her to take advantage of the opportunity.
Jaelene Gutierrez, a 15-year-old sophomore at APS’ new College and Career High School, said she wants to be an oncologist. She was inspired to work in that field because of family members who have died due to cancer and others who are currently in remission.
The semester-long course provides students with an overview of things they’ll need to know to begin a career in health care. Their instructor is Lucy Barabe, a practicing nurse with an education background. She said students will begin by learning the basics of safety and professionalism in the health care workplace. They also will have opportunities to shadow professionals in the areas that interest them. Students will work with mannequins in a simulation lab, and get trained and certified in CPR.
APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said careers in health care offer a promising future for students.
“It’s incredibly important for you to do this, particularly for old people like me who need your services as fast as possible,” he said. “Good luck. Become nurses, become X-ray technicians, become whatever it is you want to be in health care. You’ll make a good living, you’ll be a productive citizen, and we’ll be extremely proud of you here at APS.”