A group of nine high school students became the first graduates of JATCC/UAMS College of Health Professionals Academy on Tuesday, receiving a certificate and plaque during a graduation ceremony at JATCC’s administrative office.
The academy — a collaborative effort between Jefferson Area Technical Career Center and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences — is a dream come true for Susan Williamson from the UAMS College of Health Professions and Angela Amerine, JATCC’s medical professions education instructor.
“We have worked four years to make this a reality,” Williamson said. “We wanted to give the students something they could put on a resume to give them a head start. We also wanted a competitive program.”
Williamson said she is doubly pleased to have designed a program that is available to all high schools in Jefferson County.
“I hope this (first) class will inspire others,” Williamson said.
Through the partnership with UAMS, select students enrolled in the academy to pursue health-related professions are provided an opportunity to participate in the Student Health Careers Exposure Program.
The goal of SHEP, piloted by the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs, is to provide exposure to health fields and specialties and hands-on experience through a formal shadowing and internship program. Students are matched for internships in the fields of medicine, pharmacy, nursing, allied health, public health and biomedical research. Some of the graduates have already been placed in internships.
“This is very important for young people,” said JATCC Director Johnny Handley. “It’s also important that UAMS would partner with us to provide students with the best possible training. There aren’t many institutions, even at the post-secondary level, that have this kind of partnership.”
“This is the best part of my job,” Amerine said as she welcomed students and parents to the event. “My heart is to try and help open a door for you to get the opportunity to pursue your life’s dream.”
Amerine emphasized the need for the students to keep their focus as they move forward. She charged the parents to continue providing needed guidance.
“They will need you now more than on the front side,” Amerine said. “They are going to get out in that great big world of distractions. Keep a hand on them; remind them to focus; don’t let them get out there too far.”
Bessie Thomas, one of the parents, said she has already seen a change in her graduate, Kenya Fullilove, who plans to go into nursing.
“She has been working so hard, and since I am a nurse also, she has been asking me lots of questions,” Thomas said. “She had been more serious about her studies.”
“It means a lot because I worked hard all year to prove what I am capable of,” Fullilove said. “I am glad I got the opportunity.”
Other graduates recognized for their achievements were: Shaqueena Alexander, Xavion Brewer, Curlee Butler, William Rowe, Chloe Kilcrease, Ty’Daisha Jordan, Alundria Rollins — all from Watson Chapel High School — and Jada Love from Pine Bluff High School.
Others in attendance representing UAMS were Kimberlyn Blann, senior diversity specialist; Patricia Edgerson, director of outreach programs; and Vivian Flowers, director of recruitment for diversity.
Students interested in the program, which will begin again with the start of the next school year in the fall, should contact the counselor at their school.