McKinney ISD provides student learning in health care fields

McKinney North High School CTE department chair Aly Deal (left) shows student Katie Gimlin how to apply kinesiology tape on fellow student Ethan Weslowki. (Miranda Jaimes/Community Impact Newspaper)
McKinney North High School CTE department chair Aly Deal (left) shows student Katie Gimlin how to apply kinesiology tape on fellow student Ethan Weslowki. (Miranda Jaimes/Community Impact Newspaper)

McKinney North High School CTE department chair Aly Deal (left) shows student Katie Gimlin how to apply kinesiology tape on fellow student Ethan Weslowki. (Miranda Jaimes/Community Impact Newspaper)

Riley Glover graduated this spring from McKinney North High School as a certified personal trainer with a certification in Introduction to Physical Therapy. The COVID-19 pandemic helped open her eyes to the needs in the field, she said, and with her new certifications, she plans to go to medical school after graduating from college.

“[The pandemic] proved just how important the health care system is, so being a part of something that’s important and makes such an impact on all of our communities is inspiring,” Glover said.

This past school year, McKinney ISD’s Career & Technical Education Program has allowed students to study for 12 different certifications in health care, per the district website, despite setbacks from the pandemic.

Many students who gain this experience while still in high school find it can help them more firmly decide on a career path, according to Aly Deal, McKinney North High School CTE department chair. Students can also start working immediately in their field to help pay their way through college, she said.

Before the pandemic, students spent time at local hospitals and nursing homes, Deal said. The certified nurse assistant track previously required this experience. For this year the state changed the requirement, and students were able to earn their experience through lab simulations instead. This way, students are still able to learn and do what they would be required to if they were in one of these careers. Next year they expect to return to work in the community.

“We really try to help them explore careers and find pathways,” Deal said. “Exploration is really important for them to try to figure out what path they want to take after high school.”

Providing a pathway

MISD’s CTE program offers 30 programs of study, which, in addition to health science, includes information technology, human services, architecture and construction and business management and administration. High school students can take introductory classes starting their freshman year and sign up for advanced courses with the CTE program as soon as their junior year.

The district partners with Collin College to offer dual credit opportunities within the CTE programs. Dual-credit classes allow students to take classes during high school that also count as college credit. Some classes are taught at MISD high school campuses; others are taught at the Collin College Technical Campus in Allen.

The college’s Health Professions Program is what MISD students in the health and science track take to earn dual-credit classes. The college’s program has more than tripled in student size over the last four years, department director Juli Westcott said.

The department offers five academic tracks for students pursuing certificates and/or occupational skills awards. Westcott explained students can often finish some of these programs within a semester while waiting to get into a registered nurse program or some other health care program.

“I see it as the foundation for their future—the doorway to their careers,” Westcott said. “I really like to get people that think they want to do health care, but [are] not sure. This is a good ‘let’s dip your toe in the water’ [program].”

The certified nurse assistant track is the department’s most popular program, with nearly 500 students, Westcott said. However, as demand has grown for phlebotomy technicians in the workforce, she said that track has led to students getting offered jobs. Westcott said the field sees a “fairly high turnover” rate if people are not well trained. She also noted it is an important skill for people going into fields such as nursing and paramedicine.

“You’re not going to have as much time as you think you would in nursing school to learn how to draw blood well,” Westcott said.

Gaining experience

Each certification offered at MISD has its own set of requirements. Students can do more than one certification if their schedule allows. For instance, students can spend their fall semester earning their certification as a nursing assistant. The first part of the course is lectures, and then students take what they have learned and apply it to real patients, or as was the case with the 2020-21 school year, in simulated labs. Most students who complete this certification are juniors, said Janet Sweet, the certified nurse assistant program director at McKinney North.

Her students usually go on to study in the patient care technician program and graduate with two medical certifications, Sweet said.

“When they go to college or nursing school, they’re going to be way advanced from their peers, having patient interaction and hands-on learning,” she said. “Most of the time, you don’t put your hands on patients until your junior year [of college].”

Students across different campuses have a chance to bond through the lab simulations, said junior Sahmara Wallace, who completed the spring with her nurse assistant certification.

“Even though we weren’t allowed to go to the nursing homes because of COVID, we were still able to work together to solve problems in our lab. That was really fun,” she said.

Some of these certifications allow students to land an entry-level health care job right out of high school, said Todd Young, the senior director for career and technical education at MISD.

“We tell kids, ‘Go work in a nursing home. They’ll pay for you to get your nursing degree. And then go work for a hospital. They’ll help pay for you to become a doctor,’” Young said.

Some students who are taking dual credit classes at Collin College can eliminate a whole year’s worth of expenses, he said.

Glover, along with her classmates Katie Gimlin and Ethan Wesloki, got into the CTE program after they realized they enjoyed the health science courses in high school. They were able to go into physical therapy clinics and interact with patients this spring.

“You can sit down and memorize a notebook all day long, but until you actually get out into the real world is when this stuff sticks,” said Wesloki, who will be a senior this fall.

Jimmy Armentrout, a physical therapist at Baylor Scott & White Rehab of McKinney-Redbud, enjoys having students come to his office because it gives them an advantage in their competitive medical schools and prevents them from “floundering” in higher education, he said.

“I can tell somebody what the physical therapy profession is actually like, but to actually see it in action is a whole different thing,” he said. “It’s an invaluable experience.”

Deal pointed out that many students are familiar only with what they have seen on “Grey’s Anatomy” or at their pediatrician’s office. They may be surprised to learn about the different careers in medicine they can go into, she said. Gimlin, who will enter her senior year as a certified person trainer and has a certification in physical therapy, appreciated this as well.

“I feel like being opened up to all these different aspects of medicine puts you ahead,” Gimlin said. “We just have more knowledge.”

Benefits of certifications

Both Gimlin and Wesloki agreed that although the pandemic set back their CTE programs slightly, it showed them the importance of health care.

“You get to help people come back to how our lives normally were and help them kind of get back to the way things were,” Wesloki said. “It’s just something that inspired me to come help others.”

With the dual credit classes they took, the students plan to take advantage of the fact that they can graduate college in three years instead of the usual four. They can also use their certifications to get jobs and work through college.

The students said they believe they have already gotten a head start on their professional careers, despite the fact that they are still in high school and expressed confidence in being able to chase down their future goals.

“You can’t know what you like until you go and try it,” Glover said. “It gives you the experience to know what you enjoy and if it’s a good fit for you.”
By Miranda Jaimes

Editor, Frisco & McKinney

Miranda joined Community Impact Newspaper as an editor in August 2017 with the Grapevine/Colleyville/Southlake edition. In 2019 she transitioned to editor for the McKinney edition. She began covering Frisco as well in 2020. Miranda covers local government, transportation, business and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Miranda served as managing editor for The Prosper Press, The Anna-Melissa Tribune and The Van Alstyne Leader, and before that reported and did design for The Herald Democrat, a daily newspaper in Grayson County. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Oklahoma Christian University in 2014.


The robot server at Layered in McKinney is programmed to carry food on its tiered built-in trays to diners. (Miranda Jaimes/Community Impact Newspaper)
McKinney businesses look to address workforce shortage as demand rebounds

As more businesses struggle to hire staff, especially those in the service industry, companies are willing to go to new lengths to find workers or overcome the shortage.

PetBar's monthly membership fee varies on the size of the dog. Members can bathe their pets an unlimited number of times each month for one price. (Courtesy PetBar)
PetBar opens new dog spa in McKinney

The pet boutique offers full-service washing, grooming and monthly memberships.

The Texas Secretary of State's office has launched an audit of 2020 election results in four of Texas’ largest counties: Harris, Dallas, Tarrant and Collin. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Texas Secretary of State's office announces audit of 2020 election results in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Harris counties

In a statement released Sept. 23, the office said it anticipates the state Legislature will fund the process.

Kyle City Council voted 6-1 and approved the new citywide trail master plan that will utilize 2020 bond election funds for trails that will help connect Austin to San Antonio. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI Nation roundup: Perfect Game coming to Cedar Park; Kyle City Council approves trail master plan to connect Austin to San Antonio and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 24.

The West Grove mixed-use development will include about a 4-acre entertainment area called The Hub. (Rendering courtesy city of McKinney)
New mixed-use development planned for McKinney; Frisco raises water, sewer, solid waste rates; and more top news from DFW

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

McKinney Oktoberfest will feature authentic German food, music and games this year in downtown McKinney. (Cassidy Ritter/Community Impact Newspaper)
Oktoberfest, patio parties and more things to do in McKinney this fall

Check out local events that will get McKinney residents in the fall spirit.

Cookies in Bloom is set to close its McKinney location this month. (Courtesy Cookies in Bloom)
After more than 20 years in McKinney, Cookies in Bloom will close its doors

Cookies in Bloom made cookies from scratch to use in cookie arrangements, baskets, party favors and more for occasions or celebrations.

Raytheon Intelligence & Space unveiled plans Sept. 23 to build a new 400,000-square-foot factory, lab and office space at its McKinney campus, scheduled to open in 2025. (Rendering courtesy Raytheon Intelligence & Space)
Raytheon opens new innovation and manufacturing center, announces additional new facility in McKinney

A larger factory, new offices and more jobs are coming to McKinney with Raytheon’s latest expansion plan.

Several parents of New Caney ISD students spoke at the district's Sept. 20 board meetings about recent allegations that a student brought a firearm to Porter High School's Sept. 18 homecoming dance. NCISD Superintendent Matt Calvert stressed that no gunshots were fired at the event, and that the district is investigating the allegations. (Wesley Gardner/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI Nation roundup: Round Rock ISD trustees considered for censuring; New Caney ISD addresses allegations of student with gun at campus event and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 23.

Domino's menu includes pizzas, sandwiches, pasta, desserts and more. (Courtesy Domino's)
New Domino’s location under construction in McKinney

This location will feature the pizza theater store design, meaning it will be an open concept that will allow customers to see the pizza being made.

McKinney City Council considered design concepts for future wayfinding signs for the city Sept. 21. (Illustration courtesy city of McKinney)
McKinney eyes designs for wayfinding signs; Plano House of Comedy reschedules opening and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.