“Why do I need to know that,” Jasmine spurts out – even before I could summarize the informational articles for rhetorical persuasion lesson. “Well,” I attempt to patiently return, “if you can’t persuade people of what you want, you probably won’t get it.” This seems to work; there’s some moderate buy-in. Following a flurry of text messages sent from behind their oversized purses strategically placed on their desks, that I, of course don’t see, students slowly commence their work. This is the ritual: present the lesson, make them feel the connection to something relevant to their interests. In this English class, we have an advantage. We’re the Coachella Valley High School Health Academy, where students Dare to Care.

The CVHS Health Academy is a CA Partnership Academy three-year program. Students are chosen as freshmen. They begin the program their sophomore year and graduate their senior year, meeting the same graduation requirements as traditional students. Academy students participate in health-focused electives; wear scrubs and an academy T-shirt; have a community service requirement; and job shadow for ten shifts.

With the help of supportive business partners like JFK Hospital, teachers in the academy work together ensuring that students produce results. Without the hands-on work experience JFK provides, school lessons end in the book. My English lessons are integrated with Mr. Braithwaite’s history or government lessons. Science teacher Sherry Peñaflor collaborates with Health teacher Mrs. Smith, ensuring students connect the “need to know” science with the “why” in health careers.

Junior students like Isabel, Crystal and Gabriela job shadow at one of the seven sites throughout the valley. Job shadow is working with medical professionals to gain experience. “During job shadow, I was so glad I knew most of the medical terminology I learned in Mrs. Smith’s class,” Crystal confesses. “When the nurses and doctors talk to each other, and to patients, I know what they’re saying.”

Jocelyne Ortiz and Adela Lopez graduated this past May. “Thanks to the Health Academy, I have the love and support of another family,” Adela declares in the recruitment video used to recruit freshmen. In the fall, Adela begins CSU Fullerton. “If not for the Health Academy, I would have been passed over.” Adela job shadowed at JFK Medical Center in Indio, graduated with over a 3.0 GPA, performed more than 200 hours of community service and served as Partnership Academy Student Senate Treasurer during her junior year and President in her senior year. Jocelyne is one of a record three students who graduated 2013 in the CVHS top ten. “I can’t believe people say they don’t have time for anything,” Jocelyne announces. “I did it all, and still made the top ten.” In September, Jocey begins UC San Diego.

This mentoring of the future healthcare workforce doesn’t even seem like a job. It’s a contribution to so much more than I ever imagined or experienced in any job I’ve had.

For more information on the Health Academy contact Simon Moore at simon.moore@cvusd.us

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