Hixson High School to expand medical assistant program thanks to grant

Bethany White is health sciences teacher at Hixson High School.

Hamilton County Schools' efforts to prepare local students for life after high school, especially for the workforce, just got a $25,000 boost.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development this week announced 29 recipients of more than $710,000 in Work-Based Learning Grants statewide. Hixson High School in Hamilton County was one of those recipients.

The grant money, which will be matched by another $5,000 from the Hamilton County Department of Education, will be used to further the school's Health Science Work Based Learning internships, summer camps, training certifications and community partnerships, according to district officials.

At Hixson High School, students are able to pursue different pathways, including agriscience, business, fine arts, global studies and health science.

Statewide school district recipients of Work-Based Learning Grants

Rutherford CountyLincoln CountyCheatham CountyClarksville-Montgomery CountyFayette CountyHouston CountyPutnam CountyAlcoaWhite CountySmith CountyShelby CountyMaryvilleBlount CountyJohnson CountyMarshall CountyNashville-Davidson County (Tennessee School for the Blind)Warren CountyLenoir CityCarter CountyElizabethtownBristolRoane CountyBradley CountySumner CountyMaury CountyHaywood CountyRobertson CountyHamilton CountyHumphreys County

Within the health science pathway, Hixson students can choose from medical therapeutics that can lead to a medical assisting certification, nursing that can lead to a certified nurse assistant license, exercise science and dental assisting.

"We've been really working to change the way we do high school," said Joyce Perdue, Hixson's instructional coach over curriculum and learning.

"[The programs] allow the child to experience many different things and many different levels of learning. It is training grounds for the future," Perdue said.

More than 150 students now participate in Hixon's programs.

The grants are intended to assist in the development and expansion of work-based learning programs that promote career awareness and student readiness in grades K-12, according to a news release.

"TNECD is proud to provide these Work-Based Learning Grants to help improve the career readiness of Tennessee students and develop a strong workforce of tomorrow," Commissioner Bob Rolfe said in a statement. "Many communities and school districts across Tennessee have stepped forward with strong programs that will help students develop career skills. I'm encouraged by the continued efforts to ensure Tennessee is the most aligned state in the country when it comes to education and workforce development."

In Hixson's case, the grant will fund equipment for students in the medical assisting program to practice phlebotomy - drawing blood - as well as the purchase of electrocardiogram equipment. Both of these are skills that students can earn certifications toward while in high school.

"We want all our students to walk out with certifications," Perdue said. "This money will allow us to specialize in the medical assisting program; we want them to have the basics, but let's up the ante ... let's make it more specific, harder."

Those students practicing on equipment funded by the grant then will continue their studying with community partners. Phlebotomy students will practice on real patients with Blood Assurance and EKG students will work with doctors at Memorial hospital to read and analyze EKG results.

"All our kids have to go out and practice," Perdue said.

These programs fall under Hixson's Career and Technical education programs, a variety of which are available at every high school in Hamilton County.

Career readiness and workforce development is an area of significant focus for the district right now. Community organizations such as Chattanooga 2.0, the Public Education Fund and other partners are investing significant amounts of resources and efforts into expanding these types of programs.

Last month, the district announced a plan for Future Ready Institutes at each county high school that will align an industry theme or problem with the curriculum offered at that school. At the time, Superintendent Bryan Johnson noted that the effort also will help align and streamline many of the district's already-existing efforts.

At Hixson, many students go on to trade schools or colleges and universities to expand upon the skills they have acquired at Hixson, Perdue said. Hixson High is the only school in the county to offer the exercise science course and is one of the few to offer a certified nursing assistant program.

"Not just with career certifications but licensees, we have some of them go on to be radiologists or doctors, but they can do something in their career field as they are working toward their goals in college or trade school," Perdue said.

This was the first year the medical assistant program has been offered at Hixson, according to Perdue. Six students took certification exams in the fall - and all of them passed.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is accepting applications for the second round of Work-Based Learning Grants. Applicants are eligible for up to $25,000 with a local match requirement based on each community's economic status. New and expanded existing programs are eligible.

Communities and school districts interested in the Work-Based Learning Grant must submit applications by Jan. 31, 2018. Visit TNECD's website - www.tn.gov/ecd - to learn more about the program.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at [email protected] or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.