A northeast Indiana program is exposing some high school students to the world of health.
“Every time I just go to the doctor, I just see all those cool instruments and I think, I want to do that,” said Takera Morrow, a Blackford High School junior.
Morrow and twenty-two other Blackford students are dreaming big, learning all they can while getting a jump-start on health careers. In addition to the health science education program at their school, the Northeast Indiana Area Health Education Center (NEI-AHEC) will be enhancing
their learning with a $220,000 grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration.
AHECs have been around since the 1970s, according to NEI-AHEC Director Cathy Whaley, who said they were created out of necessity, specifically for rural communities.
“So people knew many years ago that we would not have health care. People were going to the big cities to practice instead of staying and being a country doc. They saw it coming.
AHECs were funded, trying to encourage people to stay home, stay local. We’re just trying to continue that, and the need is there.”
There are eight AHECs in Indiana NEI-AHEC is one of the newest offices to open, housed on Ball State’s campus in Carmichael Hall.
AHEC’s mission is to enhance access to high-quality health care, particularly primary and preventive care, by improving the supply and distribution of health care professionals via
strategic partnerships with academic programs, communities, and professional organizations. In Fall 2016, NEI-AHEC began implementing health career recruitment curriculum in high schools in Blackford, Delaware, and Wabash counties. With limited funding, Whaley said they are working in places and with students who are the most in need.
Former emergency room nurse and the teacher at Blackford’s health careers program, Yvette Rouch, sees the benefits of a partnership with AHEC in her community.
“If someone from the outside explains all the benefits (of health careers), I think they hear it more than if I tell them.”
Seventeen-year-old senior Scott Thompson is one of those students. At first interested in dentistry, he’s now switched to nursing. Thompson heard Tobyas tell the classroom that, once they’re employed in a health career, their employers may pay for future education for their health professionals through the National Health Service Corps program.
After getting his registered nursing degree, Thompson wants to become a nurse practitioner and then …
“I kind of want to like move up in ranking, I guess, and the last thing I want to do is go into hospital administration. Just move up.”
AHEC is also helping Thompson in another way. He’s involved in the student association known as HOSA: Future Health Professionals. AHEC funds trips to state and national HOSA conferences and workshops. Whaley said, “AHECs are often kind of behind the scenes because we’re a resource. Students don’t always know if it wasn’t for AHEC, they wouldn’t be receiving this opportunity. Do we make a difference? Absolutely – whether people know about us or not.”
AHEC is exposing students to opportunities and helping them imagine better lives for themselves.
“Students need somebody to believe in them and to pay them some attention and let them know what’s possible,” Whaley said.
Morrow knows what’s possible. She’s interested in a college that specifically caters to her field of interest. Her college choices are Eastern Kentucky University and The Ohio State University.
“I want to go to university and those are the two closest to home,” said Morrow. Two years away from entering college, Morrow not only has narrowed down her choices of where she would like to study but what she wants to study – Pre-operative Nursing. However, it may take some convincing to get her to return to her community.
Morrow said, “I want to go somewhere that’s big. Because when it’s bigger, there’s a lot more risk of getting hurt and a lot more surgeries.”
Dreaming big is what AHEC is about. And perhaps there is still time to convince Morrow to stay in Indiana.