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Pueblo partnership gives high school students first-hand health care experience

Pueblo County School District 70 and Parkview Medical Center win Colorado Succeeds Prize for Education Innovation.

PUEBLO, Colo. — A partnership between Pueblo County School District 70 and Parkview Medical Center gives high school students an opportunity to explore careers in health care. The School to Employment Program or (STEP) is a semester-long internship that lets students see what health care careers are like first-hand.

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“You get textbook learning while you’re in the classroom but we wanted to be able to provide them with that experience,” said Parkview Medical Center Programs Coordinator Stacy Cristelli. “To be able to give students the opportunity to say ‘Hey, I have an idea that I might want to work in health care someday, but how am I going to know that I truly want to do that?’”

Credit: Byron Reed

“Being in class and learning it is different than actually seeing it,” said Pueblo County High School senior Libby Gebbink. “I thought that labor and delivery nursing was what I wanted to do and then I saw it my first week and then I was like ‘you know what, no.’”

The school recently the school won the Succeeds Prize for Excellence in Education Innovation. The award was created in collaboration with Colorado Succeeds, 9NEWS and mindSpark Learning. Colorado Succeeds is a coalition of business leaders and educators whose mission is to improve schools and ensure they are teaching students in a way that helps supply the kinds of workers businesses will need in the future.

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“We have two semesters, we have 27 students every year and they earn four college credits,” Cristelli said. “About 77% of the students that have gone through have continued on in the healthcare profession.”

“It’s so much better than going to school,” added Pueblo West High School senior Brody Welch. “You get so much more education, so (many) more experiences here than you will ever get in that classroom setting.”

Credit: Byron Reed

Welch said he joined the program to fulfill his dream of giving back by helping other people out, just like how he was helped by doctors treating him for a severe peanut allergy.

“First thing, we walk in, check our patient boards, see what the schedule is (and) see if we can get anything prepared for the radiation techs,” Welch said.   

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According to the district, students receive high school credit and are concurrently enrolled in a Medical Terminology class at Pueblo Community College. Practicing healthcare professionals serve as mentors to students throughout a clinical rotation of 128 observation hours.

“It is a confirmation for them by the end of their 18-week rotation, they know if they’re going to be future healthcare workers and they go for it or they’re able to pick another profession.”

The Succeeds Prize is awarded to Colorado public schools and educators that show innovation in education.

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“It’s cool to be part of the spearhead that is bringing this opportunity to so many other schools and so many students who want to be in this career,” Welch said.

Credit: Byron Reed

A total of $150,000 was awarded with the hope the winners will share their best practices with other schools in Colorado.

A data-driven process was used to identify and recognize innovative public schools in Colorado.

“For Parkview Medical Center, it was a win-win and we basically are getting to grow our own,” Cristelli said. “We’re very blessed to have had this opportunity.” 

Click/tap here to learn more about The Succeeds Prize

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