At the ceremony launching the Medical Arts Academy last year, Sowell was there handing out his business card to students. He said his company, like others in the health care industry, is “having a tremendous challenge” finding qualified workers to fill its openings. When he later found out a company policy prohibited hiring students who hadn’t graduated from high school, the policy was changed to ensure Medical Arts Academy students who become certified before graduating can begin working.
The two major local health care providers have donated equipment and supplies for the program. A state Work-Ready Skills grant is also helping.
Bowling Green High School students already showed a strong interest in health care, and the school had a nurse’s aide program, Brown said. The Academy expanded on that, both in terms of career pathways and business partnerships. Ford Next Generation Learning’s academy model also brings regular content teachers on board to support students in the Academy, she added, “so that they see the relevance of the math or the science they’re learning to what’s going on in the career pathway they’re interested in. And we know that when students have high interest in what they’re doing, they’re more engaged and have higher achievement.”
Bowling Green High School Medical Arts Academy student Lauren Johnson practices drawing blood on a training “arm.”
Bowling Green Independent school board member Michael Bishop said the new Academy is part of the design of the high school’s upcoming new construction and renovation. The program, he added, “just seemed like a natural way to help with our college and career readiness for those young people that are interested in going into those fields to give them a step up. I think it has gone over like gangbusters among the student population.”
“It’s kind of going more in-depth,” said senior Bailey Buchanan, whose goal is to be a surgeon.
Several of the Academy courses are dual credit, and it’s also possible for students to get two certifications through the Academy, which is something many health care providers look for, said Matthew Atkinson, one of the program’s two specialized teachers and a veteran registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing education.
The students range from those intending to go straight into the workforce to those who are planning careers that require four years or more of postsecondary education, Brown said. Even if they change their mind about the medical field, she said, “it gives them work ethic skills and real-world problem-solving, and those are valuable across all disciplines.”
Certification in one of the career tracks can also give students a higher-paying job they can use to help defray the costs of going on to get a college degree in any other field they choose, Brown added.