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Baptist Health gains partner in NLR

Academies of Central Arkansas will provide training for health careers by Paige Eichkorn | July 28, 2023 at 3:15 a.m.
Ana Rojas, a North Little Rock High School 12th-grader, talks about her experience with the new Baptist Health Academy of Medical Sciences during an announcement at North Little Rock High School on Thursday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Baptist Health officially announced its partnership with the Academies of Central Arkansas at North Little Rock High School on Thursday.

This partnership was initiated before the covid-19 pandemic but has only recently come to full fruition.

The two academies at the Center of Excellence in the North Little Rock School District are for health sciences and industrial technology and engineering.

Karla Whisnant, principal at the Center of Excellence, is proud of the classes they already have for students to study to be a Certified Nursing Assistant, pharmacy technician, first responder or for a career in sports medicine or the bio-medical field.

Whisnant is looking to add veterinarian tech classes at the center as well.

"In the first five years we got 10 awards for different things recognized by the state," she said. "I know it works, I know I've got good people around me and I love the partnership because that's going to engage and it's going to cultivate the relationships we need with the business community to change the whole aspect of North Little Rock, the economic aspect of North Little Rock, everything about it."

Elizabeth Jones, a medical profession teacher at the Center of Excellence, previously worked in the laboratory at Baptist Health. She has been with the district since 2005 and has taught foundations, anatomy and physiology and first responder classes.

"I like working with these kids because they have a goal in mind and I can help them get there," she said. "One of my rules is I treat them as an adult and I expect them to rise to the challenge, and most of the time they do."

Jones is excited for speakers to come to class and give students a first-person view of the "real world" as a medical professional.

"My kids are always looking for jobs, especially my seniors. Some of them are planning on going to college, some of them are not -- and that's OK, there is nothing wrong with that," she added. "There are so many jobs out there that don't require college, so I want to help them get to where they want to be and show them all the options."

Aarica Trotter, a junior in the first responder pathway, said she's excited to have more teachers and better resources to get a more "real" experience and the opportunity for job shadowing.

"It's good for everyone to do the Center of Excellence because it provides you with certificates that you can use in real life," she said. "I'm taking the CNA [test] my senior year so I can get my CNA license out of high school and start working."

Trotter said her favorite class was anatomy and physiology.

"My favorite activity would have to be our search and rescue with the first responder. We hid our dummies around in the bottom of D tower and we had to go find them and do all the steps and procedures as a first responder and paramedic," she added.

Lily Hernandez, a sophomore interested in medical professions, said she wants to follow in her mom's footsteps as an in-home health care provider.

"She helps them walk better, she helps them get out of bed, and makes them happy and then it makes her happy," she said. "Then the client doesn't have to go anywhere else and you can just go to them."

Troy Wells, a Little Rock chamber board member and CEO of Baptist Health, said the partnership was a great opportunity to take the state's largest health system and school districts to "get upstream" with students to place them in future jobs.

"This is not just to put our name on something and give money," Wells said. "It's not a sponsorship. It's a partnership where we're actually involved in the teaching and training of kids."

Businesses like Baptist Health who partner with the academies will have the opportunity to advise on curriculum and certifications, host field trips and industry tours, participate in the Career Exploration Fair, provide guest speakers and project-based learning examples, be career mentors and give students internships.

The other school districts that have academies include the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, the Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District.

Print Headline: Baptist Health gains partner in NLR


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