Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:06 a.m. June 16 to clarify facility names and staff position titles.

Nearly 40 of Clear Creek ISD’s 2021 graduates signed offer letters June 9 to become the district’s first StarTECH Program partners, entering the health care field with guidance from professionals at HCA Houston Healthcare.

The students will participate in the program at whichever HCA Houston Healthcare hospital campus is closest to the town or city where they will attend college. Of the 37 students who signed, 23 will be working in patient care at the Clear Lake campus, according to data provided by CCISD at a June 9 ceremony. Students became part of the program effective June 14, per their offer letters.

The June 9 signing event was held to honor the students’ post-secondary commitment to patient care. Several HCA Houston Healthcare leaders spoke to the incoming students at the event, including HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake’s CEO Todd Caliva. Caliva told the audience he was first introduced to the patient care side of health care when he was in college himself and his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The experience allowed him to see firsthand how impactful the patient care staff can be with patients and families of patients, he said, and he has felt passionate ever since about introducing young learners to health care.

“I remember people putting their hands on me and saying, ‘It’s going to be okay,’” Caliva said, recalling his experience during his mother’s battle with cancer before she eventually died. “She remains with me today, and I found health care [as a profession]. ...You’ve chosen, I believe, the greatest profession in the world.”

Each of the students in the program completed a health science program at their respective high schools in preparation. HCA Houston Healthcare provided CCISD with the necessary virtual educational material for these courses, HCA Houston Healthcare leaders said at the June 9 event.

Of the students who will participate in the program at campuses other than the Clear Lake campus, eight will be at the Southeast campus in Pasadena. Six others will be at the Mainland campus in Texas City, and one will be at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas in the Inner Loop, which is part of the HCA Houston Healthcare network.

The training program participants will receive is similar to Certified Nursing Assistant training, per the HCA Healthcare Careers website. Minnie Washington, a nursing director at HCA Houston Healthcare’s Conroe campus, told graduates June 9 being a CNA is a good place to start if they have interest in becoming a nurse.

The hospital system is great at educating and promoting from within, Washington said; she has been with HCA Houston Healthcare for more than two decades, working her way from nursing student to nursing director during that time.

“Now it is your turn to live out your dreams,” Washington told the incoming health care students June 9. “I look forward to all the things you guys will do in the future.”