BRATTLEBORO — For one local high school senior, graduating from college debt-free is one of her life goals.
Another of Sophia Mikijanies' goals is to go to work for Doctors Without Borders.
"I would love to minor in French," she said, but right now she is taking health care courses at the Windham Regional Career Center that are focused on the next four years, getting her through college.
"I plan on working as an EMT, hopefully in a city where I can work in a larger hospital," said Mikijanies, of Brattleboro.
In fact, she said, she recently certified as an EMT and plans to work locally until she graduates. When she moves on to college in that bigger city, Mikijanies plans to study biology and continue working as an EMT.
"It will be great to be getting experience in the field I am already interested in," she said.
Nicole Potter, also of Brattleboro, plans on going to college for a nursing degree after she graduates this year.
"I don't know where nursing will lead me," she said. "I'd like to deliver babies. That's joyous."
Potter hopes to get a scholarship for college but also plans to work while earning her degree. To do that, she is taking courses at the career center that will result in certification as a licensed nursing assistant.
"Then I can work part time and on holidays at nursing homes or anywhere I can help," she said.
The courses she is taking are very hands-on and time consuming, said Potter, but "it's very rewarding at the end of the day. This is the one class I look forward to every day."
The career center gives her the opportunity to not only get a start on a career, but to get her the knowledge she needs to determine how to direct that career.
"I was planning on becoming a physician, but I realized we need help now," said Potter. "So I'm planning on trying to become a nurse practitioner."
The Health Careers program at the center introduces students to a variety of medical, biomedical and health care occupations. Topics include human biology, medical terminology and anatomy and physiology.
"We're working on getting them as many prereqs and experience in health careers, so they can narrow down their focus to what they want to be when they grow up," said Becky Steele, one of two instructors, with Jean Hodsden, in health careers.
They recently added anatomy and physiology, are continuing CPR, OSHA, blood-borne pathogens and first aid, and hope to add nutrition next year.
In the program, she said, the students start out with two hours every day, and, as they progress in the coursework, spend four hours of each week in a clinical setting.
"It's a yearlong course, and a lot of information you are being introduced to," said Mikijanies. In previous classes at the high school, she's learned about aspects of the human body, such as the nervous and endocrine systems, and the roles they play in human functioning.
"The great thing about these classes is Ms. Steele explains why things happen," she said. "Your body is just incredible and insane, and a great thing to think about."
To qualify for the courses at the career center, students have to be juniors or seniors, and must have completed at least one core general education high school science course related to their chosen pathway.
"[Brattleboro Union High School] is a very good school that does very well with core classes, as well as arts, music and athletics," said Potter, whose mother is a nurse.
"If you are even slightly interested in medicine, you should take one of these classes," recommended Potter. "Take anatomy and physiology. You will not regret it."
The courses at the career center are free to students, and open to adults if space is available. Adults must undergo a background check and can contact Maribeth Cornell at 802-451-3965 or email@example.com for more information.
Per state regulations, the class size is limited to nine students per instructor.
Nearby entry-level jobs start at about $20 an hour, and most facilities are offering sign-on bonuses.
"We have pathways to local jobs. In fact, local health care facilities want to talk to our students," said Steele.
To learn more about the different programs at the Windham Regional Career Center, visit wrccvt.com.