As we focus on health and wellness this month, I want to take this opportunity to tell you about Volusia County Schools’ health science academies and programs.

As an English teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School in the 1990s, I was part of a team that created programs to connect students to possible future careers through cooperative learning and inter-curricular lessons. Those early initiatives evolved into the high school programs/academies now offered by our Department of Career & Technical Education (CTE), which provides rigorous instruction to prepare students for high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers or postsecondary opportunities.

Seventeen different career clusters offer bridges to secondary and postsecondary curriculum provide students an opportunity to earn industry certification opportunities, reinforce core academics, deliver the skills necessary for cutting-edge, economically viable career options, and offer an opportunity to earn industry certification. These work-based learning options, hands-on learning opportunities, school-based enterprises, and Career & Technical student organizations are key components of CTE.

Students explore career ideas in middle school, and then a variety of CTE programs/academies are offered at each of Volusia’s 10 high schools. A good overview of what’s provided is online at www.vcsedu.org/cte.

These specialized programs/academies help students discover what they professionally want to do with their lives, while establishing for students the relevance of their courses to their professional careers and personal lives. It’s so important for students to think not only about today but also about tomorrow. CTE is the conduit that makes this occur.

Some of our most popular programs/academies relate to healthcare, a career field which is in high demand. VCS offers health science programs in Allied Health Assisting, Biomedical Sciences and Exercise Science as well as Emergency Medical Responder and Nursing Assistant programs. Many of our graduates go on to college completing successful careers in healthcare.

AdventHealth, our business partner for health science programs, provides equipment, staff, scholarships and other relevant resources, including work-based learning opportunities including field trips, professional healthcare speakers, internships, career fairs and options for employment after graduation.

Students have the opportunity to earn industry certifications relevant to their programs of study, such as Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA), Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam (BASE), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Certified EKG Technician (CET) and Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT). The list is reviewed annually as other industry certifications are added to the Florida Department of Education list. We work closely with AdventHealth to determine which certifications meet local employment needs. Through this five-year, $2 million partnership, AdventHealth is the Official Healthcare Champion of Volusia County Schools.

During the first year, AdventHealth provided certified athletic trainers to work with our school trainers, as well as training for coaches and athletic trainers. The following year, AdventHealth introduced VCS athletics to their Concussion Program, which included testing services and training.  Last fall, the partnership supplied all ten Volusia high schools with three additional Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for emergency use.  And, this summer, the partnership began offering cardiac screenings for student-athletes as part of their annual free sports physicals, which will be a requirement for all athletes next year.  We look forward to what’s possible during the next two years of our partnership.

This past spring, AdventHealth was named Volusia County Schools’ Business Partner of the Year for major partnerships. In addition to being a significant part of our health sciences programs, AdventHealth provides services and resources for student-athlete health and to address chronic student absenteeism.

As we’ve all discovered during the pandemic, quality healthcare is essential to living a full, happy and healthy life. We are fortunate to have such an excellent business partner for our health sciences academies/programs, and we will continue to offer our students strong, relevant programs as they prepare for college and careers.

At this mid-point in the summer, I wish everyone continued good health and time for fun and relaxation. School starts Monday, August 16 – we’ll see you then!

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