Spain Park students benefit from Grandview internship program

HOOVER – Spain Park High School senior Emma Stephens thought she wanted to pursue a career in speech therapy after graduation.

Now she has no doubts about that decision.

Stephens is one of more than 30 students in Spain Park’s Health Science Academy who are participating in internships at Grandview Medical Center, where they are being given the opportunity to learn from professionals and experience a hospital setting.

“It definitely reinforced that [speech therapy] is what I’m interested in,” said Stephens, who plans to attend Auburn University or Samford University next year. “I got to see several patients with all sorts of conditions.”

Stephens said she likes that speech therapists often work with the same patients for extended periods of time, building relationships and measuring progress.

“I like to see the improvement of patients,” she said.

The partnership with Grandview represents a significant step for the Health Science Academy, director Jason Zajac said.

“It has been a year-long process to get in the door,” Zajac said. “It’s very rare that high school students get to go in local hospitals in this area.”

Zajac said the effort to secure the internships including showing hospital officials the school’s simulation labs and encouraging them to review curriculum to demonstrate the students’ capabilities.

Eighteen departments at Grandview have been opened to the students.

“The kids have been very excited and have come back from these visits grinning ear to ear,” Zajac said. “The goal is just to get them a lot of exposure so they can see all the hospital operations, and at the end, have a better idea about school options and career paths.”

Physical therapist Angel Baker, right, shows students Frederykah Jackson, left, and Olivia Nonnengard a simulator that patients use to practice entering and exiting a vehicle.

Physical therapist Angel Baker, right, shows students Frederykah Jackson, left, and Olivia Nonnengard a simulator that patients use to practice entering and exiting a vehicle.

The academy was established in 2011 to expose students to health care professions and prepare them for college and careers.

The curriculum is aligned with state standards and is organized into tracks including: patient care tech, basic-emergency medical technician, sports medicine, pharmacy technician and certified nurse assistant.

Courses offered include career preparedness, human body structures and functions, therapeutic services, emergency services and introduction to pharmacology.

Students usually begin in the academy as freshmen.

The academy started with three classes and 46 students, and now encompasses more than 12 classes, two instructors and more than 200 students.

In previous years, students have gone into local clinics; this year, they are visiting Grandview each Wednesday, in morning and afternoon sessions.

Senior Madelyne Vinson said students are required to write journal entries after each visit and hear about the importance of networking with professionals.

“We’re kind of setting the foundation for it,” Vinson said. “Everyone has been very welcoming to let us come in there and see everything.

“I’ve wanted to go into some sort of nursing. I haven’t decided what field, but that’s the point of this. It has already helped me narrow things down.”