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New Schools: Hartford Public High School Nursing Academy

JODIE MOZDZER

January 12, 2009

Even in a tough economy, the walls of Hartford Public High School Nursing Academy are decorated with promises of a job. Nursing, the signs say, is forever.

But the academy, one of four that opened at Hartford Public High School this year under a major reformation of the school district, is not meant to land students a nursing job right out of high school, administrators said.

"The big push for the academy is to get into a four-year college," said Principal Zandralyn Gordon.

So for now, the certified-nursing-assistant and emergency-medical-technician courses, which can qualify successful candidates for jobs, aren't offered during the school year. They will be offered in the summer.

"It's not the focus of the academy," Gordon said. "We have to make sure the courses that get our kids into college are done."

The academy focuses on science, math and writing courses that will help students qualify for medical studies in college, teachers said.

"For you to be very successful in nursing, you have to develop some very strong core skills," said Stephanie Knutson, a registered nurse and director of nursing for the school. "That's what this academy is about the math, science and writing. ... Writing is very important in nursing because documentation is the foundation of nursing."

Many students said they picked the academy because they grew up watching medical dramas on television, because they wanted to give back to their communities or because they liked the stability of nursing jobs.

"Ever since I was little, my dad said he wanted me to become a doctor," said junior Charmaigne Mathurin-Marshall. "Everyone in my family is in the medical field."

Senior Ismail Hassan said he wanted to become a doctor so he could return to his native Kenya and help treat sick people there.

Some, like junior India Harrison, said they like attending the smaller academy rather than a bustling high school.

"I think it's better because when you have a whole school, it's hard to get the attention you need," said Harrison.

Gordon, who was the principal at Hartford Public High School before it was divided into academies, said the nursing academy is forming relationships with the nursing program at the University of Connecticut and with area hospitals. Gordon said the academy is trying to set up a nursing lab, complete with beds, by the end of the year. They also hope to have mentorships set up in the spring.

"The kids were not just placed here. The kids and their parents opted to be here," Gordon said. "A lot of kids feel really good about their uniform and their future plan, and it provides them with a direction."

The concept: The academy aims to prepare students to attend college in medical or health fields. The school focuses on science, math and writing courses. Nursing classes have started this year, and the school hopes to add more nursing electives, such as holistic health or psychology. Partnerships with local hospitals and the University of Connecticut nursing program will evolve and help students get exposure to nursing careers. Grades: 10 through 12. Hours: 7:40 a.m. to 2:09 p.m. Enrollment: 384 students

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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