Since eighth grade, we’ve been following a group of North Texas students we call KERA’s Class of ’17.
And junior year is decision time – the teens are starting to figure out what comes after graduation. Kelli Bowdy has known since middle school that she wants to be a nurse.
Here's a closer look at the hill she has to climb to get there.
Kelli’s high school, O.D. Wyatt, sits in a tough neighborhood seven miles south of downtown Fort Worth. The student body is almost evenly split between African-Americans and Hispanics. Three quarters of Wyatt’s 1,200 kids qualify as low-income.
Wyatt has been dubbed a Gold Seal School of Choice. So it offers specialties in construction, auto mechanics and nursing, Kelli’s key interest.
“How much time do you have with CPR before permanent brain damage?" an instructor asks one recent morning.
"Six minutes," the class responds.
Kelli’s talked about being a nurse a lot longer than six minutes. In eighth grade, she starting dreaming it might happen after her nephew was born premature and she helped care for him. Now she seems more locked-in.
Javetta Jones-Roberson oversees Wyatt’s programs of choice.
“From talking with all of her teachers and our other guidance counselors she’s been progressing in the program. She seems to be doing really well,” Jones-Roberson says.
Here’s how Wyatt’s nursing program works. Kelli takes health, science and first aid classes so by this time next year, she can graduate with CPR and OSHA certifications. She could also become a certified nursing assistant, a CNA. All those certifications would give her leg up in college.
“CPR definitely matters. So all of our students have to have CPR certification before - as part of their admission requirement,” says Ceil Flores, assistant dean of enrollment at UT-Arlington’s Nursing School. It’s one of the biggest in Texas. Of the school’s 50,000 campus and online students, about 20,000 – that’s 40 percent -- are in nursing.
“She could also work in the field as a CNA, a patient-care technician, to help fund her school, to help work on time-management, to help learn to interact with patients," Flores says.
To read more about Kelli, and to see her in the classroom, go to our American Graduate series: What's Next For The Class Of '17?