Experiential learning prepares KC urban high schoolers for college, careers in health care

Mary KettlewellIt's been a busy year for HCF and our grantees. Before we bid farewell to an eventful year, our HCF associates take a look back at significant events and projects that helped make 2012 a productive year. On Day 2 of our year in review, HCF Program Officer Mary Kettlewell brings you an update on the successful partnership that helps prepare urban high school students for post-secondary education in the health care field.

From inception, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City established the Health Care Workforce as a high priority. Without an adequate workforce, access and quality services for all cannot be achieved. With this in mind, the founding HCF board members wisely created a Health Care Workforce Initiative in 2005.

Through the years, HCF has funded a number of quality projects that have focused on:

  • cultural competency in Schools of Nursing
  • leadership/change projects in a variety of regional hospitals
  • workforce development
  • development of a statewide health care workforce data base in MO
  • projects that prepare urban high school students for post-secondary degrees and careers in health sciences skill development programs for urban core unemployed to obtain jobs within the health care field

One of the current successful projects funded under the workforce initiative is the Health Science Acceleration Academy (HSAA), a unique partnership between Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley and PREP-KC to prepare urban high school students in the metropolitan area for post-secondary degrees and careers in health sciences.

The HSAA provides an experiential learning opportunity and college credit course work in the fields of nursing and allied health. High school students attend classes at Penn Valley two days per week for 16 weeks during 10th – 12th grades. Students complete college-level courses for credit and may receive CNA certification during their junior year, making them employable for an entry level CNA job while in high school. Upon completion of the three-year program, students may enter college with some college credits and may be eligible to receive tuition assistance from the Full Employment Council, which is also a partner and receives some funding from HCF for the project, in addition to Federal funds.

The Health Science Acceleration Academy has given hope to many youth in urban areas. These are youth who had an interest in pursuing a health career but had no idea about how to prepare for that and no hope of being able to afford post-secondary education. I was privileged to attend one of the HSAA classes and see a diverse group of youth, all dressed in scrubs provided by HSAA. There were eager eyes and smiles throughout the room. The energy was contagious.

HCF will continue to support projects to build a diverse multidisciplinary workforce; attract and retain bilingual/bicultural providers; identify and engage individual health care workers early in their studies/career; and to build and support diverse, empowered leadership.


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