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CCSD students explore healthcare careers through Arapahoe Community College program

Finding one’s niche in the medical profession can be an overwhelming prospect.

When Savoy Ray graduated from Overland High School in May, she had vague notions about pursuing a career in healthcare, but she hadn’t landed on pursuing any specific field. Instead, she had enrolled at the Metropolitan State University of Denver with the intention of pursuing a business degree; her interest in healthcare would be relegated to the back burner, she figured.

Enrolling in the six-week Colorado Health Careers Collaborative program at Arapahoe Community College over the summer changed her plans. The career exploration program gave Ray a much more specific, intentional approach for her future, one rooted in the expertise, empathy and engagement of the nursing field.

“Now, I’ve decided to change my focus and pursue a nursing degree. I just like how caring nurses are, how they can give patients one-on-one attention,” Ray said at the capstone ceremony for the CHCC program held at Arapahoe Community College on July 29. “I feel like sometimes you don’t know what you want to do right away … This training helped me realize what I want to pursue.”

Ray was one of more than 90 Cherry Creek School District students who took part in the inaugural program, which included a collaboration between ACC and three of the largest health employers in Colorado: Centura Health, HealthOne and DaVita. The six-week curriculum featured a hybrid of online and in-person learning, as well as course work rooted in wide array of healthcare fields. The program was open to students age 16 to 24, and those who completed the course received a $500 scholarship for their College Invest accounts.

“The program is essentially allowing students to explore healthcare outside of what they may have experienced in their personal lives or what they may be learning in school,” said Bri Barnes-Eldert, program manager of the Colorado Health Careers Collaborative. “We’ve been able to provide students with a virtual job shadow experience, as well as give them the information they need for pursuing higher education. We also will support them with gaining employment after they’ve completed the academy, job shadows and internship opportunities.”

For students like Yaseer Sabir, who’ll start his junior year at Cherry Creek High School this month, the program was a valuable supplement to the district’s existing career training programs, including the curriculum and opportunities available at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus. Sabir appreciated the wide range of healthcare fields that the CHCC featured, including the fastest growing medical industries in Colorado: Nursing (LPN/RN), Medical Assisting, Medical Lab Sciences (CNA/Phlebotomy) and Radiologic Technology.

In that sense, the summer program helped students like Sabir develop their growth mindset, one of the Cherry Creek School District’s core values. Sabir said the range of curriculum, professional speakers and other components of the program have helped him connect with his own pathway of purpose for his future in the medical field.

“I started to learn about different fields and it got me more interested,” said Sabir, who plans on pursuing a career as a surgeon. “This program has helped give me direction and specified my own personal pathway.”

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