The Class of 2012

Meet six young women who are about to embark on promising careers in health care, thanks to a program that offers high school students a glimpse into the world of medicine

MCEP graduates, from left: Brenna Mallette, Alexi Hansen, Emily Thompson, Beverly Pettit, Darian Anderson, Shayleen Ponace.
MCEP graduates, from left: Brenna Mallette, Alexi Hansen, Emily Thompson, Beverly Pettit, Darian Anderson, Shayleen Ponace.

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, July / August 2012

They've been like sisters all the way through high school, helping each other in class, doing each other's hair and talking about boys. And like sisters, the time has finally come for each of these six young women to go their own way. And what a way it will be.

These bright, young women are Darian Anderson, Alexi Hansen, Brenna Mallette, Beverly Pettit, Shayleen Ponace and Emily Thompson. They are the latest to graduate from the Medical Careers Exploration Program at Children of the Earth High School, a unique initiative designed to steer First Nations and M├ętis students to careers in health care.

Launched in 2007, through a partnership between the Winnipeg Health Region and the Winnipeg School Division, the three-year program offers students hands-on experience working with doctors, nurses, technicians, physiotherapists and other medical mentors at the Pan Am Clinic, Grace Hospital and Health Sciences Centre. It also prepares students for a future in medicine by reinforcing the skills necessary to excel in university, such as study skills, literacy, theoretical sciences, and mathematics. The first class of five students graduated in 2011.

Stacie Jaworski, who has taught this year's graduating class of MCEP students since they entered the program at Children of the Earth in Grade 10, says her students have blossomed over the last three years, especially in the last 12 months. "It's hard to believe how quickly these three years have passed with this group of MCEP students. I can still remember my first day with them, and their first year. The students were quiet, reserved, and not exactly always sure of themselves," says Jaworski.

When the students entered Grade 10, Jaworski had them create a detailed list of their top 10 objectives. A few weeks ago, she showed the students those lists, and they had a good laugh over the goals they had set for themselves.

"Today, their goals include things like finishing a university degree, being independent, finding a career, buying their own home, and supporting a family. And after watching them grow and develop in just a few short years, I know that each one of them is capable of all of those things," she says. "I am so proud to know that they will soon embark on the next part of their life's journey as they begin post-secondary education. I want them to remember that even though things may get tough, hard work pays off and each one of them is capable of succeeding. I look forward to the day when I run into one of them working at a hospital or clinic."

The MCEP program features a blend of core academics and courses with a cultural flavour. Students take courses in pre-calculus math, biology, chemistry, and English, as well as language courses in Ojibwe and Cree. In addition to working on information communication technologies to enhance their computer skills, they also learn traditional Aboriginal ways of healing and medicine.

"Everything is enhanced toward an Aboriginal curriculum," says Jaworski, adding that, for example, each year the students learn about medicinal plants at Birds Hill Park from the school's cultural advisors.

In addition to gaining some insight into the rewarding career opportunities available in health care, MCEP graduates also qualify for a Bright Futures postsecondary scholarship grant of $1,000 for each year they complete in high school as students of the program.

The Manitoba government invested $4 million in the Bright Futures fund for 2011 and 2012, to support programs aimed at improving high school graduation rates and increasing access to postsecondary education for low-income students. First introduced in 2008, the Bright Futures fund brings communitybased organizations and schools together around a common goal: to address many of the key barriers to post-secondary education that are faced by these students.

A number of the students from this year's graduating class have applied to the University of Manitoba's Aboriginal Health Careers Access program. This program offers supports to aboriginal students in the areas of orientation, tutoring, counselling and exam preparation, all with the goal of getting them through to health-care career training as doctors, dentists, occupational or physical therapists, and more.

"While it will be sad to see them go - and there will likely be a lot of tears from me on graduation day - I am filled with excitement for each of them," says Jaworski.

Below is a brief profile of each student in the graduating class of 2012:

Darian Anderson Darian Anderson
The first member of her immediate family to pursue a career in health care, Darian has applied to the Aboriginal Health Careers Access program at the University of Manitoba.

Full story
Alexi Hansen Alexi Hansen
Alexi has applied to the University of Winnipeg, where she hopes to take some foundation courses before attending Red River College's Primary Care Paramedic course.

Full story
Beverly Pettit Beverly Pettit
Beverly will be starting her pre-med at the University of Winnipeg next . In the long run, she wants to become a surgeon that specializes in critical care.

Full story
Shayleen Ponace Shayleen Ponace
Shayleen would like to become a nurse, or perhaps a doctor. She got a close-up look at both career possibilities through MCEP.

Full story
Emily Thompson Emily Thompson
Emily is thinking about enrolling in a program at Red River College or Urban Circle to become a health-care aide. But she's also thinking about the possibility of attending medical school and becoming a doctor.

Full story
Brenna Mallette Brenna Mallette
Brenna thought she'd grow up and become a hair dresser, something she has a talent for. Her time in MCEP has changed her focus, and now she's interested in becoming an occupational therapist.

Full story

Wave: July / August 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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