Assignment: Education – Health Science Academy Expands

Four local school districts join La Crosse's Health Science Academy

Hands-on learning is taking place at the Health Science Center in La Crosse.

A class of 52 juniors is getting a lesson on cell division and tissues as part of the La Crosse School District’s Health Science Academy.

“The academy provides thematic instruction in health care, in science, like anatomy and physiology, medical termonology, psychology,” said Annette O’Hern, director of the La Crosse Health Science Academy. “But it also provides hands-on opportunities to learn about health care and health care careers.”

O’Hern said the district wanted to do more than offer rigorous classes for high school students interested in the medical field. They wanted to make sure students were career and college ready.

“We had students that were possibly going into health care, because they had taken lots of math and science, but didn’t really get an idea of, ‘What is expected of me as a college student if I’m going into health care,’ or, ‘What’s expected of me when I go into the work force,'” said O’Hern.

The goal of the academy is to introduce students to those expectations and help them explore jobs in the field they’ve never heard of.

“I’m not quite certain on what ones I want to go on,” said Katie Krien, who is a  junior in the Health Science Academy. “And that’s why this academy was so great ‘cause they gave us opportunities to look into all of them.”

But until this year, the La Crosse Academy wasn’t an option for Krien.

“I go to West Salem High School,” said Krien.

“We were able to expand to offering opportunities not only from Aquinas, but also from Holmen, Onalaska and West Salem,” said O’Hern.

“I’m so thankful La Crosse is willing to participate with us and that we can collaborate,” said Troy Gunderson, West Salem School District superintendent. “I think as a tax payer in the county let’s see if there are things that we can do for our high school kids that one of us can do and everyone else can join in. These things are less expensive that way. They’re more efficient. They offer more opportunities for kids.”

The program opened two new sections, which will allow them to take on three to four students from each of the four participating school districts. The expansion also provides more opportunity for students within the La Crosse District.

“We were turning away easily 20 to 40 students every year,” said O’Hern.

Now with the expansion of the program, the academy may be able to prepare even more young minds to find a job in what is projected to be one of the fastest growing industries in the economy.

“We’re just going to make the most of it and show West Salem we do deserve these spots,” said Krien.