La Crosse high school grads heading into health care

June 12, 2012

From “La Crosse high school grads heading into health care” — Logan and Central high school graduates hope to make it in medicine now that they’re done with high school.

Health care careers were the most coveted by 2012 La Crosse School District graduates, according to a district survey.

High school graduation is often only the first step on the long road to medical work, but many La Crosse students plan to embark on the journey. Fifty-eight of the district’s 334 graduates marked “health science” as their eventual career, outnumbering students who selected any other option on the survey, including “undecided.”

“I think the kids are smart,” said  Annette O’Hern, director of the district’s Health Science Academy. “They see that our society is aging. It’s got to be a pretty secure job.”

This is not the first time La Crosse district students favored health sciences careers over the alternatives.

The field was also a favorite of 2011 and 2010 graduates. In three years, the district produced more than 150 students set on medicine.

It’s such a popular pick, the district opened the Health Science Academy three years ago to give future nurses, doctors and lab technicians a place to learn the ropes.

Work variety, job security and the proximity of two local hospitals help make health sciences so popular with students, O’Hern said.

Admission to the district’s academy is competitive, and about 20 applicants for next year’s classes will be turned away, O’Hern said.

Those who make it in — 54 juniors and seniors  for next year — spend the first three hours of each school day at the Health Science Center, taking classes on subjects such as medical terminology, medical technology and health occupations.

Students can job shadow, tour medical facilities and earn college credit because of partnerships with Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Gundersen Lutheran, Viterbo University, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical College.

“The kids really get out and get a hands-on feel for the environment,” O’Hern said.

Least popular careers listed on the 2012 graduate survey included architecture and construction, finance, and hospitality and tourism.

In addition to health sciences, students gravitated to careers in engineering and communications. About 16 percent are still undecided, though 79 percent of all of the district’s graduates plan to attend either a university or technical college.

School resources like the Health Science Academy help students take the next step, O’Hern said.

“We need to really take a look at helping students make educated decisions now, as they’re going forward in their careers,” she said. “It’s not just about graduating high school.”


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