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Health and Human Services students cross the caution tape

In the first semester of classes for Utica Community Schools’ newest academy, Utica High School Academy for Health and Human Services (HHS), students have been presented with a mysterious death case involving female manikin, Anna Garcia, who was found in the health lab.

“We’re trying to figure out what happened to Anna Garcia,” HHS 9th grader Grace Tuffy said. “We came into the lab, measured things, took pictures, wrote down our observations and sketched the crime scene; we also found out information about her like how tall she was, how old she was and how much she weighed.”

“I’m really interested to find out what happened,” Tuffy added.

To help illustrate the real-world tie-in of the forensics unit, patrol officer and evidence technician with the Shelby Township Police Department, Ryan Nicley, spoke with the students before helping them identify evidence within the crime scene.

“I want to help improve the relationship between the community and the police department, so any time I get a chance to speak with students I jump on it,” Nicley said.

Through his experience with the police department, Nicley explained it’s important for students pursuing fields in health and human services to interact because everyone is on the same team.

“A lot of the time when forensics is involved somebody has been hurt, killed, or there is a problem that needs to be solved and when we’re all under the same guidelines and understanding, hopefully we’re able to solve more crimes together.”

“I really like the way this is set up because for the students this is so real world and Officer Nicley has taken an aspect of it and brought it to life,” HHS teacher Melissa Rice said. “They’re interacting with a police officer who does this on a regular basis for them to better understand the role of public safety – it’s not always just enforcing laws, there is also this aspect which definitely has a medical tie-in.”

Students were instructed to follow the scientific method and come up with a hypothesis as to why, how and when Anna Garcia died, but before they can come to a conclusion they must analyze hair samples, fingerprints, DNA and blood splatter.

“This is a way we hope student life in the academy is helping make school different, fun, and interactive, giving them a completely different aspect to what life in the medical field is like,” said Rice.

UCS is celebrating the opening of HHS on Thursday, October 19 from 3:30-5:00 p.m. at Utica High School, 47255 Shelby Road in Shelby Township. The event is open to the public.