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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Falcon High training future health professionals

The Academy of Health Sciences program through Falcon High School is gaining traction as a way for students to train for a career in the health care industry, while still in high school. The number of students in the program has increased significantly since the program started in 2006.Connie Michaels-Lipp, AOHS program coordinator, said she anticipates at least 250 will be enrolled in the program for the 20142015 school year. In its first year, 20 students were enrolled in the program.ìThe academy basically gives students the opportunity to experience and explore, if they truly are wanting to do health care,î MichaelsLipp said. ìWe donít just focus on college but look at some technical trades out there.îAOHS is technically a four-year academy that students typically enter during their freshman year. The courses are integrated with a studentís regular class schedule.Occasionally, a student may choose to enter the program in a higher grade, and MichaelsLipp said her team works diligently to help students get up to speed and advance through the program so they finish on time.ìTypically, by their junior year, students have chosen either the nursing track or the emergency service track,î she said. ìSome do both. Those program classes are articulated enrollment through Pikes Peak Community College, which means, as long as they pass the courses, the school district pays for their tuition and fees; and they also earn college credit for the classes. They have the possibility of walking at graduation with 23 credits for college through our program.îNot everyone in the program plans to attend college after high school, MichaelsLipp said. ìSome of them have a goal of being a certified nursing assistant or an emergency medical technician,î she said. ìStudents can leave here, take their state or national certification test and go straight into the workforce.îSome students involved in the AOHS program or those who know they want to pursue a health care profession can also be part of HOSA-Future Health Professionals, a national student-run organization, Michaels-Lipp said.According to the website, hosa.org,, HOSA is the only national student organization that exclusively serves secondary and post-secondary college students in pursuit of a career in the health professions.ìHOSA used to mean Health Occupation Students of America and that was founded in 1976; but ,about two years ago, they changed the brand and itís now HOSA-Future Health Professionals,î Michaels-Lipp said. ìWe have 1,500 members in the state of Colorado, which is a relatively small contingent as far as the rest of the country is concerned. We have about 160,000 to 170,000 in the United States, with additional members in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Italy.îMichaels-Lipp said HOSA at FHS is an extracurricular activity with a focus on competitive events held throughout the year. ìItís really an excellent opportunity for students who have a specific interest in health care, with over 60 events they can compete in,î she said.Competitions include speaking contests or hands-on events like a mock disaster.During the 2013-2014 school year, FHSís HOSA team had 97 members, 25 of whom placed either first, second or third in their event at the state level; which allowed them to advance to the national competition, MichaelsLipp said. There were about 170 students from Colorado represented at nationals, she said.ìThis past summer in Orlando, we did very well (at nationals),î Michaels-Lipp said. ìOf the 25 that went, everyone made it through the second round of competition, and 12 were on the stage as being part of the top 10 in the nation in their particular event. We were very pleased.îThe first academy participants who went through the entire program are now done with college, and the majority are in the health care field, she said.Because FHS offers one of the few health science education programs in the Colorado Springs area, students from other districts driving to Falcon to attend. ìThe health science education part of the state has looked at our academy model and wants to model other programs like ours,î she said. ìThey will refer other districts to us to see what weíre doing. Weíve had good success and growth.î

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