Le Grand High School implementing medical academy

Students at Le Grand High School will soon have the opportunity to apply to and enroll in the newly implemented Health and Medical Academy.

The academy will be open to all students but focus on minority and disadvantaged students interested in pursuing careers in health and medicine.

The project is made possible through the support of UCSF-Fresno Latino Center for Medical Education and Research (LaCMER) and funding from the California Endowment.

Led by Prinicipal Javier Martinez and Le Grand High School District Superintendent Donna Alley, the first Health and Medical Academy class is set to start in the fall with 30 incoming freshmen.

According to Alley, the academy will work as a school-within-a-school pathway program that offers tutoring, academic workshops, student and parent counseling, mentoring from health practitioners and job shadowing in a health care setting.

Participation in the academy can lead to consideration for early admission to the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine, School of Dentistry and School of Pharmacy.

The program aims to encourage enrollment in Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment in Le Grand High and Merced College in an effort to better equip students for four-year universities.

“The point of this program is to help students be college-ready and career-ready,” Alley said.

Le Grand High’s Health and Medical Academy is based on UCSF-Fresno LaCMER’s high school Doctors Academy, founded by physician Katherine Flores in 1999.

The program has been implemented in three other high schools: Caruthers, Selma and Sunnyside, where its success has been demonstrated with a 100 percent high school graduation rate and a 100 percent acceptance rate into four-year universities.

“We are pleased to be of assistance to Le Grand Union High School District in combining efforts to address the shortage of health professionals by tapping the already existing talent found in our youths who will go on to college and health professional school, and return to serve our communities,” Flores said in a news release.

The academy’s advisory council, consisting of community leaders and representatives, held the first official planning meeting Thursday to discuss rollout of the program.

“This is a project that first caught my interest a few years back,” said Martinez. “I was in talks with (the UCSF-Fresno LaCMER program), but at the time we didn’t have the funding. Now that we have the funding and the support of our partnering institutions, we’re able to get the first leg of the academy in motion.”

The high school is also applying for a $600,000 grant from the California Careers Pathway Trust. The grant would be used to ensure the success of the academy, which may include hiring more science teachers, according to Alley.

The plan is to expand a similar model for Planada’s Cesar Chavez Middle School and Le Grand Elementary School.

“We want our students to test the waters in the medical fields,” Alley said. “We have so many bilingual students here, and we want them to eventually come back as practicing professionals and give back to the communities of Le Grand and Planada.”

Le Grand High School teacher Yanet Alvarez, who has been involved in creating the academy’s curriculum, said she believes the community needs a program like this one.

“We’ve been observing different districts that have a similar academy and we see that students love it,” Alvarez said. “It’s especially important for our minority students because they get the opportunity to see other people like themselves, people they can identify with, in the medical field.”

According to Martinez, outreach and recruiting at the high school’s feeder schools has begun. The first round of applications are due May 5. The application process requires a personal statement, two letters of recommendation and an essay regarding health disparity. Students must have at least a 2.8 GPA to qualify.