Winona High School students soon will have significantly expanded health science options. Winona students will be able to earn up to nearly two years of college credit, with significantly expanded options in health science courses through the expansion of a dual credit program with Tyler Junior College, and more hands-on, experiential learning through a partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

The program, which builds on an existing partnership between Winona ISD and TJC, will allow students to earn up to 48 hours of total college credit through dual credit course offerings.

High school students also will have the opportunity to take practicum and health science classes take place at the health science center’s School of Community and Rural Health with half-day options at that campus eyed for next school year. Those courses would not be for college credit, but would give students additional exposure to careers in the health science field and meaningful interaction with professionals.

Kent Willis, UT Health Science Center at Tyler associate provost, said changing health outcomes in the region has to start with creating opportunities for students.

“One thing we noticed here at the health science center is we had to plant the seed,” Willis said. “The work they’re doing is engaging pretty heavily in experiential learning.”

With the health science center’s new state-of-the-art facility, students will have the opportunity to work closely with experts from all aspects of medical care. Willis said with their close proximity to Winona, it only made sense to grow that relationship as a model for the region.

“This relationship with Winona has continued to grow,” Willis said. “The stars are aligning. Winona ISD is a forward-thinking school district and we hope more districts will look at what they’re doing and hopefully (reach out).”

As a foray into the partnership, Winona High School students are taking part in a Practicum Experience course at the health science center this year. Students are bused over from the high school for 90-minute blocks. While not for college credit, the course does give students a better idea of what careers are available.

“Our kids are able to go over and shadow,” Winona ISD Superintendent Cody Mize said. “It’s an exploration course. They see ... all facets of the research and the hospital side of what they’re doing at UT.”

An existing Emergency Medical Technician certification course takes place at Tyler ISD’s Career and Technology Center and has grown to include high school students from Tyler, Winona and Chapel Hill.

The EMT program has grown from 28 students in 2018-19 to 40 this fall. Instructor Matthew Singleton also teaches a Wilderness First Responder certification within the course. He said students had a blast during their final last year. Students spent the night at Tyler State Park getting hands-on training in the park for the wilderness certification.

Winona Senior Estefani Saucedo said she was excited about the course after hearing so many great things from her peers last year.

“This class has been so much fun,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to it since last year. It’s great because I also want to go into the medical field.”

Potential dual credit courses that could be added at Winona High School include medical terminology, medical law and ethics and intro to health professions. The school also could add up to eight high school career and technology courses including health science practicum and pharmacology.

TWITTER: @TMT_Cory

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the School of Community and Rural Health as the School of Rural and Public Health and clarified the roles TJC and UT Health will play in the partnership.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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