Union County Health Sciences Academy Students

News | one month ago

Inspiring Future Careers in Medicine through Unique Partnership

In the summer of 2024, the Union County Health Sciences Academy celebrated the first cohort to graduate through an Atrium Health and Union County Public Schools partnership, which helped the students focus on future health and science careers.

It’s no secret that careers in health care are competitive – both for employers and job seekers. To help strengthen the pipeline of medical professionals staffing its facilities, Atrium Health partnered with Union County Public Schools to create the Health Sciences Academy.

The Union County Health Sciences Academy began with a group of sixth graders at Monroe Middle School in the fall of 2017. The students enrolled in the program have the unique opportunity to learn from Atrium Health teammates, get hands on experience at Atrium Health Union, obtain certifications and earn credit toward a college degree. In 2024, the Academy’s first class graduated high school, propelling students who were interested in medicine toward a career in health care.

Early Success, Lasting Impacts

The program was an instant success when it began, as it gave students more motivation to be present at school and expanded their learning outside of their traditional middle school curriculum. The program has since expanded to include more schools in Union County: Walter Bickett Elementary, East Elementary and Monroe High School. The curriculum spans K-12 and engages students at each grade level.

Any student in Union County who is interested can apply to the Academy and focus on a more specific pathway to pursue a career in health care such as nursing, radiology or pharmacy.

Melissa Hines, the Health Sciences Academy Coordinator at Atrium Health, has been involved with the Academy since its inception and emphasizes the importance of students beginning this curriculum as early as possible.

“Early exposure in elementary and middle school helps students make informed decisions about what they want to pursue in high school and beyond,” adds Hines. “Our students can complete many of those post-high school courses and have almost a year, if not more, under their belt before they graduate from high school.”

Eyeing a Career in Health Care

In 2024, the inaugural class of students that began the Health Sciences Academy in 2017 as middle schoolers, graduated from high school. Many of the 13 graduates are not only off to college, but they’ll also be working for Atrium Health. Dynasti Sowell has been part of the Academy since she was in seventh grade. She earned her nurse aide certification and will be working for Atrium Health as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) while she continues her nursing education at South Piedmont Community College.

“The Health Sciences Academy inspired me to pursue nursing,” Sowell says. “With all of their support and the courses that I was taking, it really helped me make up my mind.”

Atrium Health teammates volunteer their time to support the Academy’s students with lessons, field trips and demonstrations.

“At the end of the day, it’s about building relationships with the students. They know that we care, and we want them to be successful,” adds Hines.

Learn more about the Health Sciences Academy.