Shelton High School Students Prepare for Future Healthcare Careers Through the Health Sciences Academy

At Shelton High School, a new generation of healthcare workers are getting their start at the Health Sciences Academy. As a part of the innovative academy model at Shelton High School, the Health Sciences Academy values hands-on experience and real-world connections, which includes a partnership with Mason Health. This partnership provides students the opportunity to become acquainted with the healthcare field through mentorship and community networking.

a man and a woman in scrubs standing on either side of a table and projection in a classroom
Nicholas Morini, a surgical technician at Mason Health with Lindsay Roberts, laboratory manager, speaking to Shelton High School Health Sciences Academy students in November 2022. Photo courtesy: Mason Health

The academy model at Shelton High School allows for students to pursue a range of career interests, while also maintaining studies in core subjects. In addition to the Health Sciences Academy, other academies at Shelton High School include the Business, Finance & Hospitality Academy, Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology Academy and the Natural Resources Academy.

“Shelton School District researched methods that truly engage their students to be successful and to collaborate with their community partners as well,” says Gretchen Maliska, director of career connected learning for the District. “Academies provide an avenue to turn their students back into their community, regardless of what they chose after high school. This has been a really exciting and successful way for us to build career and technical education pathways to their fullest.”

Health Sciences Academy Students Have Unique Opportunities to Learn More About the Healthcare Field

At the Health Sciences Academy, students are able to study healthcare-related subjects, while also participating in electives or extracurriculars like performing arts or athletics. Maliska says the Health Sciences Academy may differ from a typical high school experience through the employment skills and the unique real-world experiences the students gain as a part of the academy.

Health Sciences Academy students are able to enroll in coursework related to the medical field, including medical terminology, patient care, sports medicine and biomedical innovation. Students have access to resources like a virtual Anatomage table, where they can study the anatomy and physiology of the human body, and especially emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are increasing opportunities for guest speakers, mentorship and job shadowing.

Jennifer Capps, chief development and communication officer for Mason Health with Tony Thompson, teacher for Shelton High School, viewing the new Anatomage table at Shelton High School. Photo courtesy: Mason Health

“Those employability skills – critical thinking, decision making, reasoning skills, self-management skills – they’re all highlighted,” says Maliska. “Within those, our students get to work in teams or organizations emphasizing 21st Century Skills. This allows our students to work with diverse occupations with adult mentors. All those integrity skills that we’re looking for, as we’re turning people out as contributing citizens into our community. The academy model provides really unique and great opportunities.”

Students at the Health Sciences Academy may be preparing for a range of careers in the healthcare field and Maliska says there are two separate pathways students may take, patient care or medical science. The Health Sciences Academy provides a base of knowledge that allows students to pursue training, education and career paths related to nursing, phlebotomy, health care administration, home health and more after graduation from the academy.

a woman in scrubs speaking to a classroom full of teen-age students at group tables
Lindsay Roberts, a laboratory manager for Mason Health talks about medical laboratory career paths in October 2022. Photo courtesy: Mason Health

Melissa Strong, chief nursing officer at Mason Health says the unique coursework and real-world opportunities at the Health Sciences Academy are vital as these students begin healthcare careers. By having a built-in knowledge of medical terminology and basic healthcare policies and procedures, that may allow Health Science Academy graduates a smoother transition into future employment.

“We have our own special language in the medical field,” says Strong. “So, for the students to understand that, it makes learning easier when they get to college, and their orientation, onboarding and integration into our culture, much easier and smoother.”

Mason Health’s Partnership with the Health Sciences Academy Helps Students Prepare for Healthcare Careers

Through the Health Sciences Academy’s partnership with Mason Health, students receive support from members of the Mason Health community. The partnership has many facets, as students consider healthcare careers. Mason Health employees serve as guest speakers to Health Science Academy students, and have participated in career fairs at Shelton High School.

The partnership between Mason Health and the Health Sciences Academy also helps students learn about the different healthcare roles available in the local community and how current needs across the industry may be addressed.

a bunch of kids with backpacks milling around tables set up in a gym with career stuff on them
Lea Sorley, an RN at Mason Health and Samantha King, surgery services group leader talk with Shelton High School students at a career fair at Shelton High School in November 2022. Photo courtesy: Mason Health

“Mason Health has just gone above and beyond on what they’re offering our students,” said Maliska. “, they’re providing our students with fantastic opportunities. Mason Health has built a true system for our youth and we look forward to replicating this with other employers and within other industries.”

Most Recently, Mason Health has established a scholarship program for Health Sciences Academy students. Now in its second year, this program covers a full-ride scholarship so that recipients can pursue continuing education for careers like nursing, medical assisting or phlebotomy. Once scholarship recipients have graduated from their respective program, Mason Health will offer the recipients a job, if there is a vacant position.

Health Science Academy

The Health Sciences Academy has also received recognition for its innovative approach to community partnerships. Last year, the academy received the Innovative Community Service Healthcare Champions Award from the Thurston County Chamber and the Thurston-Mason Medical Society.

In future school years, Maliska says the Shelton School District hopes to expand partnerships and real-world opportunities for the other academies at Shelton High School. And Mason Health and the Health Sciences Academy hope to continue their partnership, providing further educational pursuits and opportunities for students in the classroom.

“Providing our students with additional opportunities to create their best selves is really important,” says Maliska. “The Health Science Academy started because of the immense need in the healthcare industry. The Health Science Academy has been years in the making. The results and outcomes our students are receiving is due to the fantastic work and collaborative partnership we have. This academy is the oldest and the most established and we are looking forward to providing these outcomes to our students within our other academies.

To learn more about the Health Sciences Academy at Shelton High School, visit the Shelton School District website. To learn more about the partnership with Mason Health, visit the Mason Health website.


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