Aug 13, 2012

Charter School to Focus on Health Jobs

A proposed charter high school that would begin operation in the fall of 2013 looks to meet the demand in health-related fields by, in part, re-enrolling local students who have dropped out of school.

The new school — Health Leadership High School — would be at a to-be-determined site in the South Valley and serve students ranging from freshmen up to 24-year-olds who are returning to school, said Gabriella Duran-Blakey, the proposed school’s principal.

The school has the support of organizations like First Choice Healthcare and Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said Tony Monfiletto, who is a facilitator in the project. Monfiletto helped create Amy Biehl and ACE Leadership charter high schools.

“We’re talking about opportunities for kids,” said Bob DeFelice, CEO of First Choice. “Opportunities to finish their education. To pursue an advanced education if they choose. Opportunities for employment in a growing employment area, health care. So this is an exciting time for us and we’re very, very interested.”

The charter has already been submitted to the state’s Public Education Department, and a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 9:30 a.m. at the New Mexico Activities Association, 6600 Palomas NE.

The school would start with about 110 students, Duran-Blakey said, and would add about that many more for the succeeding three years.

About two-thirds of the students would be coming off a tradition school track, while the remaining students would be returning to school after dropping out, she said.

The school’s developers want to involve the health care community as it begins its implementation.

“At our school, we engage the community and the health care sector to create the curriculum, because we’re not experts in health care,” Montefiletto said. “We don’t know about that, so we engage the folks from Presbyterian, First Choice, UNM Hospital to help us create the curriculum, help us train our teachers, and then they help us assess whether or not our kids are learning so it’s a tight partnership.”

The school would be based on three levels of support for the students, Duran-Blakey said.

The first is engaging the students immediately in the morning and throughout the day, she said.

“They need that personal attention to wrap their mind around school for the day,” Duran-Blakey said. “That’s an integral for what’s in store for health leadership. It’s all based on positive youth development and how we can build these kids up.”

Then there is the community involvement to give students a sense of their education’s value.

And finally, there’s curriculum and assessment, with project-based learning.

“Project-based learning lends itself to really get at the interest of kids and their inquisitive minds and have them sort out problems,” Duran-Blakey said.

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