By Mae Hunt | [email protected]
A select group of incoming T.C. Williams students are preparing to spend their four years of high school immersed in the medical field.
They are the inaugural class of the G.W.-ACPS Academy of Health Sciences, a new Virginia Governor’s Academy designed to help T.C. students earn college credit while gaining extensive knowledge in the field of medical health.
The program, a collaboration between Alexandria City Public Schools and the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is the first of its kind in the commonwealth. Its goal is to prepare students for targeted careers in the medical field.
“The unique thing about this program is you can be affiliated with the George Washington University, and you can go directly into the workforce, you can go to our community college … or you can actually go to the George Washington University. So it’s giving multiple pathways to our students,” said ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings Jr., Ed.D.
Although the 108 students enrolled in the academy just graduated from eighth grade this spring, they have already been introduced to the program through a summer bridge program. Over the course of two weeks, students met with professionals in the medical health field and chose a specific career path to begin researching. The students presented their research to the community in the Minnie Howard Library on July 20.
“It was so much fun,” said Carrie Sample, 14, who researched psychiatry with two partners during the summer bridge program. “I feel like going two weeks in the summer is a nice prep for [the program] because you did do quite a bit of work there about career planning and college. … It’s going to [be] easier to go into it on the first day of school because we have that prep.”
Students enrolled in the G.W.-ACPS Academy of Health Sciences have the chance to earn a maximum of 22 college credits through their work within the program.
“It’s going to be a lot of work because it’s a college-level class, but they probably provide us with all the information we need,” said Erin Howard, who researched the role of a Physician Assistant along with friend Alex Murawski.
After the students presented their research, a brief assembly was held to commemorate the progress made so far and address the groundbreaking potential of the program’s future. Among the speakers was Fran Bradford, Virginia’s deputy secretary of education.
“We want to work very strongly to make sure that students and families have the information they need to make good decisions, and that’s why this program is such a shining example,” Bradford said at the event, speaking on behalf of the office of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “We’re really committed to making sure students have the career opportunities and talent pipelines as quickly, easily and inexpensively as possible.”
Hutchings concluded the assembly by reminding the students of the advantages they will gain by participating and graduating from the G.W.-ACPS Academy of Health Sciences in four years.
“The simple fact that you all are part of a program, a partnership like this, is going to set you up for success. You are already going to have a job waiting for you when you graduate,” Hutchings said. “You are going to set the tone for the next health professionals in this country and possibly around the world. If you don’t know our mission here at Alexandria City Public Schools, it is that every student succeeds. … You all are living proof that we are on the right trajectory to make that happen.”