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Every Thursday 17-year-old Carlos wears a set of dark green medical scrubs to school.

On that day, his walk to and from a county community school in Monterey Park becomes a transformative experience.

"People look at me differently. I'm not just another Hispanic kid in a T-shirt," Carlos said. "These scrubs make me feel confident. They represent where I want to be."

The uniform is part of a health careers class launched last summer at LACOE's Mujeres y Hombres Nobles community school for at-risk youth.

"It's not necessarily about becoming a doctor or nurse," said teacher Elizabeth Rodriguez of the Career Technical Education class. "My goal is to give students a foundation for working in the healthcare industry and a chance to explore the countless careers it offers."

Rodriguez, a licensed vocational nurse, covers a range of topics aimed at helping students gain entry-level positions in the field, such as medical terminology and abbreviations, infection control, confidentiality issues and examining room basics.

Students are given their own stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs to learn how to take vital
signs, and may earn certification from the American Heart Association in CPR and basic first aid.

A focus for Rodriguez is to help students develop portfolios that include resumes, cover letters and other materials that will help them get their foot in the door with a potential employer.

Thanks to his portfolio, Carlos is the first in the class to secure healthcare-related employment. He'll work at East L.A. Doctors Hospital after school earning $10.50 an hour in the food service department making sure that patient meals conform with their dietary needs and restrictions.

"They were surprised I already had a portfolio and that it was so organized," Carlos said.

Professional speakers and field trips augment the class. Recently students experienced an autopsy at a chiropractic college where they could "see and touch what they've been reading about," Rodriguez said.

Students must maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average to enroll in the class and demonstrate excellent behavior and maturity.

"If you're going to mess around, this class isn't for you," Rodriguez said.

For Carlos, the class has shown him he can "be somebody." He will soon earn his high school diploma at Mujeres and plans to attend East L.A. College.

"I don't think I would have made it otherwise," Carlos said of the class and the support he's received at the school.

LACOE's Mujeres y Hombres Nobles (honorable women and men) community school is among the oldest alternative education programs in L.A. County. It currently serves 31 students including those who are expelled from regular schools, are on probation, are homeless or face other issues that put them at high risk of dropping out.

Learn more about county community schools here.

The health careers class is supported by a California Career Pathways Trust grant that provides industry equipment, supplies, materials and professional development.

Photo 1: Nurse and teacher Elizabeth Rodriguez gives students at the Mujeres y Hombres Nobles community school a strong foundation for working in the healthcare industry.

Photo 2: Students learn about vital signs: blood pressure, pulse and documentation.

Photo 3: Rodriguez helps student Carlos refine his CPR technique. He's the first in the class to secure healthcare-related employment.
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