New health care course offered at Westfield High School

Science teacher Kyle Kosloski trains WHS students Sita Gurung, Roji Darjee, and Madison Adamczykin on how to take blood pressure. (Photo submitted)

WESTFIELD – Westfield High School and MassHire Hampden Country Workforce Board have received a Youth-Works Year-Round Competitive grant of $55,777 for health care career exploration and training for 15 juniors and seniors.

The students who take the course will have the opportunity to obtain a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) credential, along with other first aid training, in partnership with Holyoke Community College.
The grant was written by Science, Technology and Engineering Supervisor Lauren Figy and Grants Projects Coordinator Shannon Barry. Last year, they received a $20,000 development grant to explore the feasibility of the program. This year, with the full grant, classes have begun for the 15 juniors and seniors.
The idea began when Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski was nominated by Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta and Secretary of Education James Peyser to participate on the Mass. Workforce Skills Cabinet Pioneer Valley Regional Planning Committee.
Czaporowski said the committee, which is charged with developing a regional blueprint to increase the work force for Hampden County, identified health care as the top area in need of employees in the Pioneer Valley. Number two is manufacturing, and three is education. Internet technology is also on the list in all the categories, he said.
Represented on the committee were educators, members of the business community, government, higher education, and secondary education. “This came from our work on the six-year blueprint for the Pioneer Valley to increase the work force in the three areas identified as highest need,” Czaporowski said.

Science, Technology and Engineering Supervisor Lauren Figy and Grants Projects Coordinator Shannon Barry. (Photo by Amy Porter)

“With the planning grant, we tinkered to see what worked and what didn’t. This year’s pilot is more aligned to the field,” said Figy, who wrote the curriculum with WHS science teacher Kate Pawul.

They have also formed a Health Care Advisory Committee for the program, which has representation from HCC, Western Mass Hospital, who will be offering clinical hours for students, MassHire, the WHS science department and school nurse, and a Westfield Fire Department paramedic.
Next month, students will take Stop the Bleed training at the Fire Department.
“The course is awesome,” Figy said.
The first half of the year, science teacher Kyle Koloski, who is the lead teacher, will also be teaching 25 hours of the Signal Success workforce development. In the second half, partnering with HCC, the students will go through the Nursing Assistant program. At the end of the course, students will take the CNA license test. They will also have training in CPR, First Aid, CNA and Stop the Bleed.
Along the way, students will be exposed to different careers in health care, such as physical, occupation and recreational therapy, and listen to guest speakers from the medical field and the work force. Daisha Serrano of the Career Center will work with them on internships and job shadowing opportunities.
Barry said the grant will pay for WHS to hire someone to manage job shadowing and work experience, a position that will be posted soon; one they hope will be filled by a WHS staff member.
“We want the follow through,” Figy said. She said thanks to generous donations from community, they are outfitting a room at WHS as a hospital room. Their hope is to continue the program as a career technical pathway at WHS.

“We have to see if it’s sustainable, and the student interest stays there,” said Czaporowski. This year the course was capped at 15 students, with a waiting list. Eleven of the students are seniors.
Figy was optimistic. “Once we have a lot of materials, we can keep going using existing staff, except for the person to manage job shadowing, and for the cost of certifications,” she said.
Westfield Technical Academy does offer an Allied Health career technical program, but Czaporowski said the need is so high, and WTA is at capacity. “If this is the highest need profession, I’m perfectly fine with having it at both high schools. Right now it’s a one-year course; it could go to a two-year course,” he said.
“It has a lot of potential, especially for a non-vocational high school. It’s a unique opportunity for our students. The interest at Westfield High School is really high,” said WHS Principal Charles Jendrysik.
“Students will be getting medical skills and transferable skills that work in any industry. We want to give them a good foundation,” Jendrysik added.
Barry said they also put in funding for transportation into the grant, so it’s accessible for all students to do after hours. “We didn’t want transportation to be a factor,” she said. Students will also be getting a stipend for their work in the field.
“Kids are loving it. The students seem really pleased,” Figy said.

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