OCEANSIDE — When young people think of jobs in the medical field, the primary two that first come to mind are doctors and nurses. Though plenty of students end up pursuing those fields, others may steer clear of health care because they don’t know what other opportunities exist in that field.
A partnership between MiraCosta College, Tri-City Medical Center and Oceanside Unified School District is trying to change that by enlightening students about what jobs exist out there in the medical business through discussions with professionals in the classroom, immersive experiences and tours of medical facilities in the region.
“Although doctors and nurses are great, there are hundreds of other health care jobs,” said Aaron Byzak, chief external affairs officer for Tri-City Medical Center. “A lot of times young people — no matter what your background is — don’t have access to that kind of information.”
Throughout the month of October, seventh- and eighth-graders from Oceanside are making trips to the Tri-City Wellness & Fitness Center to learn more about what other professions exist in the medical field. There, they hear from fitness trainers, physicians and other specialists who aren’t the quintessential nurse or doctor.
The trips are made possible through Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a seven-year grant awarded to MiraCosta College to work with Oceanside Unified School District students. GEAR UP follows seventh- and eighth-graders at Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jefferson and Lincoln middle schools in Oceanside for seven years, beginning last year when they were sixth- and seventh-graders, by providing them with opportunities to learn what careers they could potentially pursue in the future.
GEAR UP is a federally funded initiative administered by the United States Department of Education. The California GEAR UP Program has been administered by the University of California since 1999 with the goal of preparing students for success after high school.
The GEAR UP Grant will follow these students to El Camino High School and Oceanside High School and will continue to serve all students in these two high schools.
According to GEAR Up Director Julie Johnson, the program will follow the students through their first year of whatever post-secondary option they choose, whether it’s college or the military.
Johnson said MiraCosta’s GEAR UP program has hundreds of partnerships like the one it has with Tri-City.
‘“Tri-City is a huge employment opportunity for members of our community, but some of our students don’t have that awareness,” Johnson said.
Johnson hopes the GEAR UP program will catch those students who may be interested in joining the local workforce before they go somewhere else.
Chavez Middle School students had their turn at the fitness center on Oct. 11. There, they met with professionals like Christian Sanchez, a personal trainer at the Wellness & Fitness Center.
Sanchez told students he didn’t have an interest in physical activities until after he started playing sports in high school. After that, he decided to make fitness his career.
With this opportunity learning so much about the body and learning how to take care of myself and help others as well, it led me here — to a career in personal training,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez also later showed students proper stretches and techniques during their tour of the facility.
One of the student go-getters was Janae Frazier, an eighth-grader at Chavez Middle School and GEAR UP student ambassador. In that role, Frazier performs community service through the program, like volunteering with the school’s science nights, and advocating for college awareness.
Janae said she wants to be a writer, but her backup is becoming a doctor or engineer who works with prosthetic limbs.
“I really like math and science, so I want to be the kind of person that makes prosthetic limbs,” Frazier said.
Students like Janae help set the example for her peers to begin exploring their possible future careers.
The ultimate goal, according to Byzak, is to bring awareness of what kind of jobs exist out there to middle school students so that when they get to high school, they can begin to focus on potential career paths they may want to follow.
Oceanside middle school students will once again meet up with Tri-City staff in the spring for interactive lessons that will give students “a taste of the real-world” of a medical center.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son