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Head Start into Medical Careers

Students at Pontotoc Technology Center are starting off their medical studies while still in high school.
Head Start into Medical Careers

Head Start into Medical Careers

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Pontotoc Technology Center


Show Details

Show 1703: Head Start into Medical Careers
Air Date: January 15, 2017



Rob McClendon: Well, science education is often about training young brains to think independently and inquisitively. Still at some point, the hands have to get involved and gain experience with scientific equipment. But for students in small school districts or even in big districts with small budgets, gaining that hands-on experience is a challenge. Our Austin Moore shows us how a technology center in southern Oklahoma is offering small town students a big time opportunity.

Austin Moore: Teachers like to brag on their students, and Susie Edens is no exception.

Susie Edens: They are curious. They are those inquisitive students. They want to work with their hands. They ask “Why?” a lot. And that curiosity is really the core of being a great science student.

Austin: Edens teaches environmental science and biotechnology at Pontotoc Technology Center.

Edens: We teach a combination of skills and higher level content knowledge, too. So we train them in laboratory skills so that they are going to be able to go directly into college and have skills with the high level equipment that most high school students are not going to have an opportunity to use.

Austin: And an opportunity to delve deeper into science.

Edens: We are looking at the molecular, the internal structure and processes that go on inside every cell. And so these students are not just using a microscope, but we are actually pulling out some of the materials (the DNA, the proteins) and examining those internal substances and then manipulating those substances and then transferring them from one organism into another.

Kay Gamble: That kind of embraces all realms of science. So if a student wants to become a veterinarian, if they want to go into environmental science, if they want to become, go into the health field in any way, if they are interested in research and even teaching, this is a great place for them.

Austin: Kay Gamble teaches second-year students in this program.

Gamble: We are trying to attract students who are college bound. This is a college prep program. It is only for high school students.

Edens: We do AP environmental science as well as AP biology. So they could actually acquire up to about six or eight college credit hours if they pass those two tests.

Austin: But if we’re honest, it’s the toys that really draw the students in.

Hannah Kaiser: Any time she shows us a new piece of equipment I just light up like a kid in a candy store.

Austin: Hannah Kaiser is a first-year student in the program. She sees this class as both great fun and as a competitive advantage.

Kaiser: Most of the other people coming into those intro level college classes have not had the opportunities that I have had to work in these labs and to work at this level of education because we are working in a college level class in high school, and I get to know that I can handle that work before I get there, so that gives me the confidence to do it and also the tools to know that I can do exactly what that asked of me.

Laramie Reed: It is a whole lot of lab experience that you don’t get to do at a lot of high schools, especially little ol’ Latta.

Austin: Laramie Reed is a senior at Latta High School, which is highly regarded, but only has a few hundred students, making a lab like this impractical. But Pontotoc Technology Center is a partner to nine area schools including Latta, making for broader opportunity and more attainable dreams.

Reed: I want to go into biomed engineering and then eventually into rehabilitation engineering, which is like prosthetics and stuff.

Gamble: The spring semester they can sign up for a sophomore level research opportunity at East Central University. And there they are mentored individually by a professor, and they do a research project. I think it is exciting for students from Pontotoc Technology Center that they can go into a college class and already have the competencies and understanding that most of the students are just getting into as they get into college.

Austin: A benefit ECU student and Pontotoc alumnus Lauren Williamson can attest to.

Lauren Williamson: I furthered my education in science, biology, environmental science and learned a lot of lab techniques that I had no clue about, which have helped me in the nursing program with all of my biology labs and things like that. The classes here are a lot harder, and with the AP classes we took at the technology center it’s just a breeze. Like, it’s, like, “Oh, I already know this.” So I’m just blowing right through everything. Definitely took a lot of stress off because I was worried at first, and then I got my lab manual, and I was like, “Oh, well, I’ve already done all this stuff.” I thought it was going to be a lot harder, but it is not.

Edens: And then right, this will be for your LB broth and then you can, then you can enter your data into the Excel spreadsheet in just a minute or two.

Gamble: Science is something that is interactive. It’s creative. It is a problem-solving process. And really it’s a way of thinking.

Austin: Thinking focused on humanity’s shared problems.

Edens: We know about all the organs of a frog. We know the anatomy of humans. We don’t know all the inner workings of our cells and what makes them tick and what the functions that they perform.

Austin: And solutions grown here in Oklahoma.

Kaiser: There is always more to learn. There is always an underlying part of it. You learn about cells; underneath that you can learn about the molecular structure. There is always a definitive answer, and if there is not, you get to look for it. And I think that is really exciting.