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UCS dedicates new health and human services academy

Digital TableZack Sharrak knows his future is tied to the health industry.

“I really wanted to be in a field where I can help people, and to me, that is health sciences,” the Utica High School 9th grader said.

To give himself a head start on exploring his career options, Sharrak is among the first group of students to enroll in the Utica Academy for Health and Human Services.

The academy, which began in August, was officially dedicated by community and district officials on October 19 as the fifth UCS secondary specialized program.

“We started on this endeavor really trying to make education come to life for our students,” Superintendent Robert Monroe said. “It was intentional for us to focus on real-world partnerships and programs so that our students see the connection between what they are learning and their future careers.”

Housed at Utica High School, HHS allows students to explore three fields:

  • Rehabilitation Services (personal training, athletic training, occupational therapy and physical therapy
  • Public Safety (EMT - Paramedic, Forensic Science, Fire Science and the Military)
  • Therapeutic Services (Patient Care Technician, Registered Nursing, Physician Assistant and Doctor)

“We identified these fields after meeting with leaders in the medical industry and studying data on emerging careers,” Principal Timothy Youngblood said. “We have had a strong history of a booming Medical Science and Nursing program, and student interest in this field continues to grow every year.”

For students in the academy, the three fields will be embedded with core academic programming – English, social studies, math and science courses - to create a program that gives students an advantage in highly-skilled medical careers or admission to college and universities.

The program began at the 9th grade level this year for approximately 50 students and will add a grade level each school year.

“These academies give students an advantage and the opportunity to see something they may like,” County executive Mark Hackel said at the dedication. “These are the reasons why people make Macomb their home. I am proud to say as a public school graduate in Macomb, no one does it better than our public schools in Macomb County, and Utica Community Schools is leading the way.”

In addition to a comprehensive curriculum, HHS offers students a medical career expo in their sophomore year, a medical career-related job shadowing during their junior year and an extended internship during their senior year.

A capstone project will be required of all students in their senior year to replicate industry-level challenges from Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) or based on partnership challenges with professional collaborators.

The academy approach is projected to increase the number of students earning college credit through articulation agreements with post-secondary institutions and Advanced Placement graduates. Students can also earn certification from the American Heart Association.

HHS graduates will be filling a critical need in the health industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that overall employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2021 to 2031 – a rate much faster than the average for all occupations. The increased need is expected to result in about 2 million new jobs over the decade.

“We recognize that our work has a direct impact on the regional economic health of our community,” Board president Dr. Mary Thomas said. “The quality of our schools not only sets home property values, but we also support the vitality of. our region by creating the talent pipeline for businesses to strengthen our economic health.”

UCS worked closely with business partners in the development of the academy, including Ford Next Generation Learning, the national non-profit Project Lead the Way, Corewell Health (Beaumont) and Macomb Community College.

HHS is the fifth high school specialty program offered through Utica Community Schools for high school students and the second school-based academy.

The second academy is the Stevenson Center for Manufacturing and Design Engineering. Other specialty programs include the Utica Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology, the Utica Center for Science and Industry and the Gene L. Klida Utica Academy for International Studies.