AHS seniors get a head start on health careers with HCOP

  • This year, 17 Athol High School seniors participated in the Health Careers Opportunity Program. Front row (left to right): Gianna Lehman, Christa Cucchi, Sadey Lehtomaki, Erika Puccio, Mikayla Petit, Amilah Richards, Katelyn Cauley. Middle row (left to right): Anjalicia Dunn, Breanna O'Donnell, Samantha Kenniff, Avah York, Kennedy Vaillancourt, Ashley Rouleau. Back row (left to right): Abigail Kirwan, Lindsey LeBlanc, Skyleigh D'Ambrosia, Madelynn Kenniff, Reilly Polana. Photo/Mitchell Grosky

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 7/15/2022 5:10:23 PM
Modified: 7/15/2022 5:10:09 PM

ATHOL — The Health Careers Opportunity Program is known as HCOP. What is HCOP? According to Lisa Stejskal who is the Director of HCOP, HCOP prepares students for careers in the allied health fields. Our area of Massachusetts has a critical need for more allied health workers — health care professionals — who provide direct and indirect patient care. Getting a job in one of these professions starts with a career-focused college education.

HCOP is offered to seniors at Athol High School. This year, 17 students participated in the program. The classes are taught by Mount Wachusett Community College professors at the Athol High School campus. The students are treated as college students and take five courses: English I, Exploring Health Careers, Psychology, Statistics, and Sociology. They earn credits toward their high school graduation and also credits for MWCC toward their Associate Degree. The 12 credits are transferrable to any two- or four-year college or university, but if they attend MWCC after their high school graduation, they will receive $1,500 scholarship for each semester at the Mount. It is a real incentive to participate in HCOP.

Students must be in good standing with their teachers and guidance counselors to apply. The individual must be either a first generation college student or financially challenged in order to apply. The HCOP program is designed to ease a student into college and have some of their courses completed before they even enter. They will be able to transfer 12 credits. The students will meet once per week with their advisor.

During the year, medical professionals come to AHS as guest speakers and lecture to students about different careers and help them to explore different opportunities. The students will work with LUK, Inc. and Heywood Hospital taking NARCAN training and QPR, which teaches the student how to identify a suicidal person. Many will be doing internships at Athol and Heywood Hospital and at other medical organizations.

I was given the opportunity to interview two students who participated in HCOP. Christa Cucchi who graduated in the 2022 class at AHS and Alexia Clapper, 2020 graduate from AHS.

Christa wants to specialize in pediatric dentistry. She has always wanted to work with children. She particularly enjoyed working with the HCOP program. She was able to work with the fifth grade class at Athol Royalston Middle School every Friday. Christa applied for one of the three seats at the Pre-Health Care Academy and was accepted. She shadowed a dental hygienist. She will be earning her Associates Degree at MWCC and then transferring into Fitchburg State University. Christa particularly liked the time management skills that she learned and being treated as a college student. She is very excited about her future at the Mount and her new career.

Alexia Clapper transferred into AHS as a sophomore and graduated in 2020. She became a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant in 2020-2021. She took very rigorous courses at MWCC. Alexia did her internship at Heywood Nurse Practice. She is currently working full time as a Medical Assistant at Summit Family Practice in Gardner. Alexia is able to draw blood for tests, give vaccinations, do EKGs as well as many other things during her work day. She loves working with patients. She will be transferring to Fitchburg State University in the fall to pursue her RN degree.

Joanne Davidson is the newsletter developer for Athol Royalston Regional School District.

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