YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Registered nursing was the most in-demand job in Ohio in October, and in northeastern Ohio, 12% of job openings were in the health care fields, according to online postings through Ohio Means Jobs.
The Choffin Career & Technical Center is hoping that getting high school students interested in exploring health care fields will lead them to find their niche and a rewarding career.
The newly remodeled fourth floor at Choffin, now known as the YouMed Academy, has the space ready for students to learn about advanced medical careers, fitness training, physical therapy, athletic training, dentistry and medical office operations. The Choffin students can gain skills and certifications and find out about future education or degrees they may want to pursue after high school, either at Choffin’s adult education programs or elsewhere.
Michael Saville, director of Choffin Career & Technical Center, says the renovation of the formerly unused part of their building took about a year and a half, creating large spacious labs between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet, as well as a gathering space in the middle.
With that space, Saville says Choffin is offering a robust curriculum to train students who will be tomorrow’s workforce in the health care industry.
“We started off with a process goal to provide in-demand, rigorous and accessible medical programming to our Youngstown City scholars, and that process goal has now turned into an achievement goal … to produce highly qualified and certified candidates for a vast array of medical positions in the Mahoning Valley and beyond,” Saville says.
A program for high school juniors and seniors, the first group of 27 juniors started last year, when there were only two programs – allied health and biotech.
The program expanded this year, with 68 students in five programs: patient care, fitness training, physical therapy and athletic training, dental technology and medical office management. At maximum capacity, the program could serve 200 students annually.
“We took a bigger-picture look of what we’re trying to accomplish and what was in need,” Saville says. “We found out that between the pandemic hitting the industry pretty hard and the areas that we just weren’t covering, we wanted to provide an opportunity for every one of our scholars to get every niche and area in demand in Youngstown, the region and even nationwide.”
Aligning with the three medical programs in adult education – practical nursing, surgical technology and dental assisting – students completing some of these high school programs can continue to the adult program and earn national certification.
Saville hopes the medical community and other schools will partner with the YouMed Academy as it prepares students for careers in health care. He would like to see the local industry help to provide these students with mentors who would influence the curriculum.
“We think we have it covered across the board with the offerings. Now we’re trying to get the support from the community, support from the industry to provide the guidance and representatives,” Saville says.
While some students come with no experience or interest because they are not aware of what is available, other students are very committed to becoming a nurse or a doctor. The curriculum allows them to enter the program as medical generalists, Saville says. They learn anatomy and physiology and explore the programs. Then they can decide where they might want to specialize during their senior year.
“This is kind of the crown jewel at the top of our building up here on the fourth floor. It allows everybody to work together. It allows everyone to see multiple facets of an industry, which is something unique to our building,” Saville says.
Part of the renovation was paid for with grants, including $200,000 from an Equity for Each grant, and an Innovation Workforce grant, which will boost the EMT academy that will be coming in the spring.
The high school students can collaborate and be mentored by the adult education students one floor down, and both groups can take advantage of the equipment in the building.
Some of that equipment includes an Anatomage table, which Marci Higgins says will allow students to see and explore the parts of a human body without the school needing a cadaver.
The instructor can set up quizzes with identification questions. Students can focus on regional anatomy, such as the mouth area, through the dental program.
“It’s a fantastic tool,” Higgins said. “Everyone is using it – adult ed and our [high school] programs. We can stand it up. It’s on a hinge. It can connect and project.”
It is not computer generated imagery. The Anatomage shows an actual human brain, taken apart layer by layer. There are four cadavers within the system right now.
Higgins says the equipment allows some advantages over an actual cadaver lab, which requires security, cold storage, generator backup and recurring cost. For less than $100,000, the school can use this year after year.
In the fitness training, health and wellness classroom, Tanya Bush says students were collecting data from their classmates, such as pulse, blood pressure and BMI.
Earlier in the year, students started by talking about how much longer people are living because of medical technology, but why they are still struggling with medical ailments and are so unhealthy.
Students have explored the effects of stress, cortisol and body composition on health, as well as medical conditions such as diabetes, looking at ways they can help prevent medical conditions before they occur.
“Theoretically, they will be able to work with clients, to develop a very specific program,” Bush says. “They will have a whole range of assessments they will know how to do … be able to work with clients to help them live better or avoid the health problems coming their way.”
Pictured at top: Cutting the ribbon are Karen Perry, medical and allied health instructor; Shaunna Scoville, medical office and business management instructor; Robyn Markovitch, dental technology and radiography instructor; Deputy Superintendent Jeremy J. Batchelor, Youngstown City Schools; Choffin Director Mike Saville; Tanya Bush, fitness training: health and wellness instructor; Marci Higgins, physical therapy and athletic training instructor; and state Rep. Nick Santucci, R-64.