With the involvement of Grand Island Public Schools, CHI Health St. Francis and donations from businesses and individuals in our community, Grand Island Senior High students soon will receive valuable training and exposure to a variety of health care careers, on the eighth floor of the hospital tower.
The Grand Island Senior High Academy of Medical Sciences project will cost $5.92 million, but it is expected to be ready for the 2022-23 school year at no cost to taxpayers.
The hospital has agreed to lease the space to the school district for a token fee and private donations got a jump start with the announcement last week that JBS USA was giving $500,000 from its Hometown Strong initiative to the project.
This is an extremely exciting project that will create a 20,522-square-foot learning lab that will serve more than 450 area high school students. Organizers describe it as a “school within a hospital.”
When GISH moved to its academy system, the idea was to involve local businesspeople in providing career education to high school students that will prepare them to enter the workforce.
It all began with the opening of the Career Pathways Institute, which provides technical education that has been a model for other school districts throughout the state. Then the freshman academy opened to start the transition to the full academy system.
Now, all GISH students enter one of the five academies when they begin their sophomore year. In this academy, they take the normal core classes, but they also take classes that help them work toward the career they want to begin either after high school or following their college education.
The opening of a learning lab for the medical sciences right in the hospital will enhance greatly the education of the students who choose that academy.
“They are really allowing us the opportunity to partner with the medical community to help make Grand Island a health care hub,” Superintendent Tawana Grover said about St. Francis’ involvement.
Grover said she believes that working side-by-side with health care professionals will “provide fun and relevant learning opportunities that will make a huge impact on our students’ futures.”
The academy will include two large simulation pathway labs, four additional labs, two classrooms, several smaller break-out rooms and a large learning lab and lobby for gathering.
Students will alternate days of hands-on learning at the hospital with traditional in-classroom days at GISH. While at the hospital, students will simulate bedside care using electronic patient mannequins, work through emergency care protocols in an ambulance, learn how physical therapists assess sports injuries and repair high-tech medical equipment.
Twenty faculty members, collaborating with St. Francis providers and employees, will teach in the new space. Job shadowing and mentoring opportunities at the hospital also will be offered as part of the curriculum.
When the hospital tower was built a decade ago, the eighth and ninth floors were deliberately left vacant. The idea was to have the space available for growth, whatever the community need was. Now some of that space will help educate future medical professionals while they are in high school, hopefully paving the way for GISH students to remain in the community when they begin their careers.
St. Francis President Ed Hannon said he believes time spent at St. Francis will be invaluable in helping students navigate the 250 possible careers in health care. They will see medical professionals working in their community and come to understand the range of possibilities for their careers.
Partnerships like this are the key to keeping our community, its schools and its businesses vibrant in the future. In the academies, students learn from local businesspeople and the local employers benefit as the students graduate and enter our workforce.
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