Health Careers Academy Helps Students “Beat the Odds”

BY CHERYL SCOTT, Bakersfield Life Magazine, 
June 2016

More than thirty years ago, East Bakersfield High School was an education pioneer when it was one of a handful of “academies” established in California. The purpose was to create a targeted learning program, featuring a career theme, in order to prepare students for college and careers after high school.

Today, academies exist throughout the state, but EBHS’s Health Careers Academy is the last of the original programs introduced in 1985. Considered by many to be the crown jewel of California academies, the local effort recently caught the attention of leaders at the national level.

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Megan Mawson and Marcos Solis, both alumni of EBHS, attended the “Beat the Odds” summit and participated on a panel where they described the program and the importance of continued funding for the Academy.

Representatives from the EBHS Academy were invited to Washington, D.C. in March to attend First Lady Michelle Obama’s summit, “Beating the Odds,” designed to spotlight programs that help prepare students for success, especially students who face financial or other barriers that impact their education in high school and beyond.

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Megan Mawson and Marcos Solis, both alumni of EBHS, attended the event and participated on a panel where they described the program and the importance of continued funding for the Academy. Mawson is a teacher in the EBHS Health Careers Academy. Solis, a respiratory therapist at San Joaquin Community Hospital, is a graduate of the Academy.

“During our breakout session, former students of successful programs told their own story,” Mawson said. All were at-risk in some way. “Some were gang members, or they were the very neediest students. When Marcos was a student, his mother had a stroke and he became the man of the house at an early age,” she said. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when people told their stories.”

For Mawson, the experience was much more than just a trip to the capital, and it wasn’t even about the people, like Mawson, who keep the programs going. “This is about the students, and demonstrating why our programs should continue to be funded,” she said.

“This is about the students, and demonstrating why our programs should continue to be funded,” EBHS alumni Megan Mawson said.

Students enter the EBHS Health Careers Academy as sophomores. Hand-picked teachers cover traditional curriculum with a medical slant (especially when it comes to research and special projects). As juniors and seniors, students job-shadow local medical professionals at facilities like Kern Medical, Kaiser Permanente, Mercy Hospital, and Niles Point Veterinary Hospital.

“Education is just one piece of the Academy,” Mawson said. “The other piece is giving students real-world experience, getting them outside their neighborhood and into job-shadowing, field trips, and volunteer opportunities. “

In the end, the ultimate beneficiary is not only Academy students, but the overall community, as well. Many students eventually establish their career in Kern County, and Academy graduates now serve local residents as optometrists, nurses, doctors, imaging technicians, and many other health care related positions.

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Note: Kern Economic Development Foundation manages the Workforce Mentoring portion of the EBHS Health Careers Academy.  Workforce Mentoring pairs current professionals with students at two Bakersfield high schools for monthly mentoring sessions.  For more information on mentoring, please visit the KEDF website HERE.

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