Health Team

Wake high school seniors earn college degrees

Posted June 23, 2010 6:57 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2010 5:29 a.m. EDT

— The Wake Early College of Health and Sciences graduated its first class this spring. The graduates not only earned high school diplomas but two-year college degrees focused on health and sciences.

The school was formed four years ago through collaboration with the Wake County Public School System, Wake Technical Community College and WakeMed. It is designed to give students a head start on health care jobs.

Students in the program, which is free, shadow health care professionals in their field of interest.

“Not a single one of these students had to pay a dime for any of that exposure. This is being paid for as part of their education in the Wake County School System,” WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson said of the program.

Students enrolled in the school follow an integrated curriculum of high school and college courses, allowing them to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and a two-year associate degree. Students can also choose to transfer their college credits to a four-year college or university.

All rising ninth-graders are eligible to apply for admission, but the school is competitive.

“You're going to have to do a lot of hard work to keep up with the work that you have to do in early college," said 16-year-old Ravi Dixit, who wants to be an oncologist.

The school holds no end-of-year dances and has no sporting teams.

“If you're really into sports and things like that, I wouldn't advise coming to this school,” said 17-year-old Emily Edquist, who wants to be a pharmacist.

But students said the fewer distractions help them succeed academically.

“When you're surrounded by people who really want to get far in life, it's a lot easier to focus,” said 16-year-old Brianna Henson, who wants to work in the orthopedics field.

Job shadowing and internship experiences are also offered through WakeMed to provide students the hands-on experience needed to secure a job in the health and sciences field.

As part of the program, 16-year-old Hussein Ahmad, who wants to be a heart surgeon, is volunteering in WakeMed's cardiac testing unit. He said he appreciates the on-the-job experience.

“I think it's a great opportunity to get to know the environment a lot better and get some more exposure, more hands on activity that will better prepare me for my future ambitions,” he said.

The 2010 class graduated 39 students, 17 of them with two-year associate degree and 17 others planning to pursue advanced college degrees.