FONTANA, CA (JUNE 2017) 70 nervous high school freshmen lined up for their first day of Health Occupations 101 offered through Fontana Unified School District and facilitated by the non-profit Reach Out. Initial hesitation about the two-week medical summer camp turned into curiosity and excitement as each day brought them a completely new adventure.
"The Health Occupations Program offered at Fontana High School is a great avenue for our students to learn about the medical profession and take advantage of opportunities that may not be available elsewhere," said Randal Bassett, Superintendent of Fontana Unified School District.
This proved to be true, as students listened to clinical lab scientists, anesthesiologists, emergency medical technicians, and clinical therapists who chatted with the students and shared many stories about their careers. Hands-on experiences followed classroom-style career presentations where students learned to carve teeth in a dental lab, performed super-hearing and super tasting gene tests, and even extracted DNA from strawberries the pharmaceutical science lab.
Highlights of the camp include field trips to Premier Medical Transportation (PMT) and American Medical Response (AMR). Students were wide-eyed as they toured the AMR facility in Rancho Cucamonga and heard real 911 dispatchers taking calls. The tour included a chance to sit in the back of an ambulance while Robert Coster, Account Executive at AMR, explained the equipment and how to use it.
One student, Esperanza Lopez could not wait to share her experience. "I really liked the dispatch room at AMR. All the computers- they looked like a video game!"
After the tour, Andy Serobyan, an employee of AMR, taught a hands-on CPR workshop to the students.
"When they were doing compressions, you could hear the clicking, which meant that they were doing it right. You could see the success showing on their faces. Students left determined to become CPR certified," said Kushan Shah from the Inland Health Professions Coalition.
Health Occupations 101 helped the students understand what their lives as future healthcare professionals would look like. They could often by overheard discussing the different factors that determine the health of a community and how they could make a difference locally.
"The Inland Empire is experiencing a significant shortage of healthcare workers. Early bridge programs get students thinking about planning their futures early on. Our goal is to inspire these students by introducing them to exciting careers in health and to expose them to the many different pa thway options. Fontana USD is confident they will be part of the next generation of healthcare workers serving our community," said Tracey Vackar, Director of Career Technical Education.
Incoming freshman, Marcos Rodas, echoed this sentiment. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he said, "I want to be a pediatrician because I want to be cheerful and make conversation with the kids. I want to bring them up when they're down."
Marcos Rodas and his fellow students ended camp with newfound confidence in their future. As they enter their first year, they will have the opportunity to further their aspirations by enrolling in the health pathway program at their high schools and pursue their interest all the way through their secondary education.
"Students were exposed to various careers in the health profession and at the same time earn 5 credits toward completion of the program. This program would not have been possible without funding from the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant, said Ofelia Hinojosa, Principal at Fontana High School.
With dedicated students and strong community involvement, the Inland Empire healthcare shortage has a chance of turning around.
The Inland Health Professions Coalition is an initiative of Reach Out, located in Upland, CA. Visit www.inlandcoalition.org for more information.