CATCH Academy prepares South Texas students for health careers

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Ashley Cerna, student at Dilley High School, gets hands-on experience with intubating a mannequin. This is one of several activities that took place throughout the week that demonstrated different aspects of the health care field.

Twenty South Texas high school students visited the Health Science Center last week to participate in a one-week camp designed for select students and their teachers to learn about a variety of allied health field topics.

The CATCH (Community Approach to Careers in Health) Academy invited five students and one teacher from Alexander Magnet High School in Laredo, Dilley High School, Fredericksburg High School and South San Antonio High School to participate in the unique program. The South Central Area Health Education Center (AHEC), a division of the Center for South Texas Programs, partnered with the School of Allied Health Sciences to provide the academy for the students.

The academy was designed to teach leadership skills, introduce students to a university environment and assist students in developing a community project based on the health field. The final community projects are expected to be used to form informative health career clubs at each participating school, and Health Science Center allied health students will serve as mentors for the next year.

“The CATCH Academy was a huge success for all who were involved,” said Kimberly Ferguson, health careers opportunity program coordinator in the AHEC and primary coordinator of this year’s academy. “I am glad that we were able to share this program with the students and their teachers, and I’m confident that the projects they created will provide a positive influence for their communities. We hope to be able to have this one-week health camp in future years, as well.”

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Kimberly Ferguson, health careers opportunity program coordinator in the AHEC, gives Luis Rendon, student at Alexander Magnet High School in Laredo, a certificate for participating in the CATCH Academy.

The students spent their days participating in hands-on activities, presentations and learning the importance of the health care field. Laredo’s Alexander Magnet High School students created one remarkable community project based on issues that affect many students on a daily basis. The Laredo students plan to implement their original program, “You are not alone,” to improve both physical and mental health by reducing isolation among peers. Their program will include presentations, support groups and public service announcements at their school to encourage their peers to become more involved in healthy behaviors. The project stems from the CATCH Academy students’ witnessing of self-destructive behaviors, including smoking and unprotected sex.

The successful camp was made possible by many other individuals, including Richard Garcia, M.H.A., assistant vice president for South Texas Programs, Douglas Murphy, Ph.D., associate dean for the School of Allied Health Sciences, Paula Winkler, M.Ed., director of the South Central AHEC, and Marka Truesdale, community health intern from Texas A&M University.

“The CATCH Academy helped establish a longitudinal relationship between the high schools and the Health Science Center,” Winkler said. “Now there is a network in place for the students as they navigate through the health careers educational system. It also helped establish a network for faculty at the high schools to talk to one another about particular issues, and gave a broad-based approach to health careers information for those who have interest in any health care field.”



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