Gov. Ralph Northam visits T.C. to officially open health science academy

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Gov. Ralph Northam in a T.C. Williams classroom during his visit on Oct. 5 (Courtesy photo)
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Gov. Ralph Northam visited T.C. Williams High School on Oct. 5 to cut the ribbon and officiate the opening of the school’s new Governor’s Health Science Academy.

The program welcomed its first class, consisting of a little more than 100 students, earlier this year through a summer bridge program. Students who participate in the program take classes at Alexandria City Public Schools and the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, with the opportunity to earn up to 18 credits at the university before graduating.

Students in the program spoke and posed for photos with Northam ahead of the ribbon cutting. Freshman Abdul Abdelsadig said he had always been interested in the medical field, and that he and his parents both liked the program and its curriculum.

“It’s definitely a new experience,” Abdelsadig said. “I’ve learned so much from it already.”

Northam, T.C. Williams Principal Peter Balas, ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D., George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc and GW President for Health Affairs Dr. Jeffrey S. Akman then spoke at a ceremony ahead of the ribbon cutting.

“It’s an example of how public and private institutions can work together to
address workforce shortages,” Balas said during the program. “… We’re creating a robust pipeline that will create students that will become the next generation of health care workers.”

As part of the program, students have guaranteed admission to George Washington University upon graduation, a point that LeBlanc emphasized in his speech.

He also announced that the university had recently been awarded $3.2 million from the federal government to address regional health care needs. The funds will be used to provide scholarships and stipends for students. Hutchings called the program progressive.

“This is the future of education and we’re proud to be on the forefront,” Hutchings said.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said he was impressed by the dreams of students he had met while at T.C. He said this program is helping to train students for 21st century jobs that are being created faster than they can be filled.

“We’re falling short. … It’s vitally important to find ways to help us meet these demands,” Northam said.

Northam particularly praised the program’s accessibility to students, and its diversity – 70 percent of the program participants are female, there are 15 languages spoken by the first class of students and more than half of the participants are the first in their family to pursue a job in medicine.

After he concluded his speech, Northam cut the ribbon, along with students from the academy and LeBlanc, Akman and Balas.

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