In celebration of this year’s Career Exploration Month, we stopped by the World Academy for Total Community Health High School (WATCH), one of our Career and Technical Education (CTE) high schools, to see how some City students are gaining valuable skills and hands-on in-classroom experiences that are prized by today’s fastest-growing industries.
WATCH is a CTE school in Brooklyn that is dedicated to the concept of “total health.” Located inside the Thomas Jefferson Educational Campus, WATCH prepares students for careers in athletic management and health industries through its rigorous Sports Management, Medical Science, and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) programs.
Principal Claudette Christie, who has led WATCH since 2013, relies upon her 23+ years of education experience to serve the 250+ students that fill her teachers’ classrooms every school day. Under Principal Christie’s leadership, students who graduate from WATCH earn Advanced Regents diplomas, and, in the case of the school’s CNA students, New York State Nursing Assistant Certifications. These certifications allow CNA graduates to apply and obtain nursing assistant jobs immediately after graduation.
After a brief walk through the WATCH campus, Principal Christie introduced us to Ms. Brenda Wilkes, the nurse aide coordinator who oversees the school’s CNA program. This year, Ms. Wilkes is teaching two CNA classes, one each of juniors and seniors.
Throughout their junior and senior years, CNA students take classes like nutrition, anatomy, and biology alongside their nursing classes, which are held inside WATCH’s clinical classroom. The clinical classroom, which holds a blood pressure monitor, a set of hospital beds, a medical sink, wheelchairs, a trio of medical dummies, and other medical equipment, allows students to learn and practice routines and procedures that are expected of all nursing assistants.
Ms. Wilkes allowed us to observe two of her classes inside the clinical classroom, where we saw students check each other’s blood pressure, practice their patient-lifting and bed transfer techniques with medical dummies, work on their bedside manners, and other clinical exercises.
Last summer, WATCH’s CNA students got the opportunity to intern at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Thanks to a partnership between the cancer center and WATCH, CNA students were able to work at the cancer center throughout summer 2017 and shadow some of the world’s leading cancer surgeons as they consulted and treated actual patients.
“We learned how cancer cells grow and watched doctors perform surgeries. It was crazy, because sometimes the surgeries would last hours; we even saw them perform an eight-hour surgery,” said one of the CNA program’s seniors.
“What was surprising about those surgeries was seeing just how calm each surgeon was; you’d think things would be pretty tense in the operating room. Instead, surgeons kept it light by playing music,” she added. “It taught us about the importance of staying calm in the heat of the moment.”
In addition to their classes at WATCH, CNA students also take classes for college credit at Medgar Evers College through CUNY’s CollegeNOW program. This provides WATCH’s CNA students with even more preparation for life after high school, as CollegeNOW allows students to jump right into their college coursework without having to take introductory or remediation classes.
We asked WATCH’s CNA students whether they would continue to work in the medical field once they graduate from high school, and most said they would. Some indicated they would use their State certifications to work and attend college at the same time, while others would apply what they learned at WATCH towards other professions and career paths. All agreed that their experiences in the CNA program were incredibly valuable to their academic and personal growth.
On behalf of the DOE, we thank Principal Christie, Ms. Wilkes, and the juniors and seniors of WATCH’s CNA program for allowing us to learn about their work!