Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan High school students Natalie Ozuna of Collins Hill and Keziah Fleurmont of Archer take the blood pressure of Kelsey Denzler of Berkmar during their Health Care Science Technology Education - Nursing Essentials course at Maxwell High School on May 10, 2012. One hundred percent of the students in the program will be attending college in the Fall.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- In just a matter of days, graduates will leave the structured world of the classroom and choose college or a career.
Those taking either course of action are entering the college classroom or the workforce during a very competitive time.
Career seekers may find that any edge they can demonstrate over the competition could mean the difference in a successful job interview and being shown the exit door.
Some young people are already gaining the experience in high school that they'll need as they prepare for the future.
At Maxwell High School of Technology, for instance, 24 students in a health services classroom are gearing up for careers in the field. The best of the best in the class are on track to land local health services job the moment they graduate.
Through a partnership with Gwinnett Medical Center, the hospital hires a handful of the most talented and ambitious students as patient care technicians right out of high school.
Students in Dr. Jade Gillispie's class learn more than the traditional skills taught in health services classes.
They learn "lessons about working and interacting with people, with patients," Gillispie said. "They learn the importance of integrity and morals."
Gillispie said the 24 students in her class "had to beat their way" into the course. "It's very competitive," she said.
Students like Natalie Ozuna, 19, don't take the opportunity for granted.
"I'm in this because I want to help people out," Ozuna said. "It makes me feel like I'm making a difference."
Former students of Gillispie's who are now working at Gwinnett Medical Center said being in the Maxwell High School of Technology classroom was integral in their career path.
"We got to see what's behind the scenes and really goes on," said Airaza Huda, 19. "It was a good experience for us, and it's continued to serve us well in our jobs."
Coworker Ariana Rodriguez, 20, agreed. "It was a great experience," Rodriguez said.
Huda, who refers to his former teacher at Maxwell as 'Dr. G,' said the woman "was a very good instructor and she made sure we knew what we were doing before we came to work at the hospital. There are many different things you wouldn't expect to traditionally pick up in the classroom. Tips and tricks."
Paula Thornburg, an RN clinical manager at Gwinnett Medical Center, oversees several of the patient care technician's work.
"I said at first that I wasn't sure about hiring teenagers," Thornburg said. "But they've come through in a big way. They're so responsible and bring such a positive energy, and they want to learn. It's been the most positive experience for me as a manager to see them grow in their roles."
Susan Stubbs, director of learning resources at the hospital, helped to build the partnership from the ground up. She was a member of the team that approached Gwinnett County Public Schools inquiring about the possibility of a partnership.
"These young people have far exceeded our expectations," Stubbs said. "We are so very proud."
Patients at Gwinnett Medical Center agree with Stubbs.
Sarah Anderson of Grayson commended Huda for "not being afraid of his job. He's a real professional. He's an angel that God sent from heaven. He's taken good care of me."
Huda feels fortunate that he landed a job right after graduation.
"We were surprised that Gwinnett Medical Center of all places was interested in hiring us right out of high school. It's a great place to work, and it's been a great opportunity."