MC/MISD partnerships provide focus for career dreamsFebruary 09, 2018

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Amaya Pryor and William Rodriguez

Amaya Pryor and William Rodriguez are both juniors in high school, and thanks to partnerships between Midland College (MC) and the Midland Independent School District (MISD), they will have a jump-start on their college education and career training before they graduate from high school in May 2019.  The programs in which these bright young people are enrolled are different, but the purpose is the same—to enable them to earn college credit while in high school and to begin focusing on their future careers. 

Amaya Pryor, age 16, is enrolled in Early College High School at Midland College (ECHS@MC), which is a high school (9th through 12th grades) located on the Midland College campus.  The application and admission process for ECHS@MC is rigorous.  Once they are enrolled, students have little time for extracurricular activities as they participate in an accelerated high school curriculum and also take college courses at MC.  Most ECHS@MC students complete an associate degree by the time they earn a high school diploma!  Thanks to funding from various Midland companies and philanthropic foundations like Abell-Hanger Foundation and Scharbauer Foundation, ECHS@MC students do not have to pay for college tuition or books.

“We have a lot of homework, and the teachers really push us,” said Amaya Pryor.  “However, it’s worth it.  I’m getting an associate degree and the first two years of college absolutely free!”

Pryor said she first started hearing about ECHS@MC when she was in junior high at Abell Junior High in Midland.  Even as young as 6th grade, Pryor began to think about her future.  Then when she was in the 8th grade, she and her mother heard more about the opportunities provided by ECHS@MC, and Pryor decided to apply.

“It was a tough decision because it meant that I wouldn’t be with my friends whom I had known since kindergarten,” stated Pryor.  “Now looking back, I’m glad I made the decision.  ECHS has really helped me find myself and made me focus on my future.  I’d like to eventually be an orthodontist.  I know this will take many years of college, but I’ll already have two years completed by the time I finish high school.  My first choice for undergraduate school after completing Midland College is TCU, but it’s expensive and I’ll have to get a lot of scholarship funding to be able to go there.  My second choice is Texas Tech.”

William Rodriguez, age 17, also wants to attend Texas Tech.  He is ranked 4th in his class at Midland High School and is enrolled in the MC/MISD Health Sciences Career Academy, where he takes Principles of Health Science and Medical Terminology at the MC Advanced Technology Center.  Next school year, when he is a senior, he will continue with Health Sciences Career Academy classes, and will be eligible to take the Certified Nurse Aide exam. 

“My plan is to attend Texas Tech and major in pre-med,” said Rodriguez.  “Then, I’d also like to go to medical school at Texas Tech.  I’ve known I’ve wanted to be a physician ever since I was eight years old when my mom passed away due to medical malpractice.” 

In addition to the Health Sciences Career Academy, Rodriguez, who has never gotten a grade below an “A” since he was in the 6th grade, is also enrolled in dual credit courses on the Midland High School campus.  He is receiving both high school and college credit for Pre-calculus, U. S. History and English.  When he graduates from high school next May, he will be classified as a college sophomore.

William Rodriguez is passionate about focusing on his future.  In previous years, he played football, but dropped the sport so that he could concentrate on academics.  In order to balance the long hours of study, he enjoys playing video games and is teaching himself German.  About a year before his mother passed away, he moved in with his aunt and uncle Bennie and David Ross and continues to live with them.

Like Rodriguez, Amaya Pryor also has ways to relax from long hours of studying.  She enjoys singing, dancing and vegetarian cooking.  She sings in the choir at Hollowell United Methodist Church where her great uncle Wendell Smith is pastor.  She lives with her mother Tequilla Culberson and older sister Jasmine Pryor.

Both Amaya Pryor and William Rodriguez said that the programs in which they are participating are doing more than just enabling them to earn college credit while still in high school. 

“The teachers challenge me to always keep striving to do more,” said Pryor.  “The Midland College teachers who teach college courses don’t treat me like a high school student.  They expect me to do the same work that any other college student would do.  When I leave Midland and transfer to a university, I’ll already know how to study and know what to expect in a college course. “

Rodriguez agreed and added, “The classes I’m taking through the Health Sciences Career Academy are helping me to gain a basic understanding of the medical field.  I’m learning how to care for other people, and by the time I graduate, I’ll have a health certification and an employable skill in case I need to earn extra money while I’m in college.”

It will be several years before Amaya Pryor and William Rodriguez are able to realize their career goals of becoming specialists in the medical field; however, thanks to programs like Early College High School at Midland College, the MC/MISD Career Academies and dual credit courses, both of these young people are able to focus on and strive for a dream that is well within the realm of possibilities.

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