Biomedical Pathway at high school receives $30,000 grant

Lauren Figy, Supervisor of Science Technology and Engineering, Westfield Public Schools. (Photo submitted)

WESTFIELD – On Aug. 17 the School Committee approved a grant of $30,000 from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for the implementation of the new Biomedical Pathway at Westfield High School. The district received an Innovative Pathway designation for the program in the spring of 2020.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski called the grant “great news,” and thanked Science, Engineer and Technology Supervisor Lauren Figy and Interim Business Administrator Shannon Barry for their work in obtaining both the grant and the designation.

Figy said the application process was a collaboration with a whole team of teachers and administrators. She said the grant will help with start up costs for the program, adding, “Science can be costly.”

The Biomedical Pathway will allow students the opportunity to explore the healthcare field through coursework and practical applications. Students will have practical experience and the opportunity to build the skills they need to be successful in a variety of careers within the biomedical field, according to the program description.

All freshmen in the pathway will take introductory biology, the first core course, followed up in their sophomore year with biomedical anatomy.
Figy said students who opt into the pathway will also be enrolled in Project Lead the Way, introduction to engineering design during their studies, in conjunction with biomedical anatomy and physiology.

“We also want students to explore biomedical engineering. All of the students will take an engineering course sometime in their high school career,” Figy said.

Students in their junior year will be enrolled in chemistry and a focused physical education class, that will provide them opportunities to begin receiving certification in CPR, first aid and stop the bleed. They will also start fulfilling hours in the healthcare field, totaling a minimum of thirty hours during their junior year. The school will be working in partnership with the WHS MassHire Workforce Employment career counselor to place students in various experiences based on interest and community need.

In their senior year, students will complete a Capstone course that will allow them to apply the knowledge and skills that they have learned previously in the pathway to new and relevant scenarios. Students will work with a certified life science teacher as well as a registered nurse to complete their Certified Nursing Assistant license. This course is a partnership between Westfield Public Schools and Holyoke Community College.

With the help of these community partners, WHS was able to run a pilot course for seniors during the 2019-2020 school year, building a hospital room for the students to obtain realistic training. Figy said all of the students that received CNA certification in the pilot course got jobs in the field.

The 15 entering freshmen in the pathway this fall all applied in the third quarter of eighth grade. Figy said in order to include students who did not apply or who were undecided, there will be a second round of applications available for students later in their freshman year. This year’s eighth graders will also be able to apply to begin the pathway in 2021-2022. She said if there are more applications than slots available, students will be selected by lottery.

“At the end of this year, we will put it out to freshmen again if they want to apply to join in their sophomore year, and also for a new set of eighth graders,” Figy said.

When asked whether starting school remotely due to COVID-19 will impact the coursework, Figy said in the first year that the students are in the pathway, they are cohorted together. She said for remote learning, they are going to bring in experts in the medical field for Google Meet sessions with the students, beginning with a surgeon and a physical therapist.

“We’ll still have students able to learn about the healthcare field in general, not just from doctors and nurses. There are so many other fields the students can go into that we really want them to explore,” Figy said.

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