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Mid-Carolina AHEC Supports High School Students on the Path to Health Careers

12th graders in Mid-Carolina AHEC’s Health Careers Academy pose for  a group photo while participating in a Stop the Bleed course.

High school students from across the Midlands have benefitted from an expansion in programming in Mid-Carolina AHEC’s Health Career Academy (HCA). The HCA focusses on creating an exploration experience for students through grade-specific programming to promote academic success, career development and personal growth. 

Mid-Carolina AHEC’s growth in its HCA is due in part to the hiring of an additional coordinator, made possible by the increase in state funds appropriated to South Carolina AHEC for fiscal year 2023. All four regional AHEC centers were able to grow to two coordinators supporting their Health Careers Programs (HCP) and start expanding the reach within their regions. With the additional support, Mid-Carolina AHEC’s HCP coordinators, Whitney Amaker and Taylor Rice, can reach more schools and students in the 11 counties their center covers.

“The HCA has expanded over the last few years to many different counties such as York, Lancaster and Chester,” said Mid-Carolina AHEC HCP Coordinator Taylor Rice. “This has helped us provide more programming options for students and more partnerships to provide further experiences to high school and college students throughout the region.”

The HCA offers students opportunities such as health professions mentoring, pre-health and hands-on clinical skills training, colleges or university visits, and an exploration into the many types of health careers.

Ryleigh H., a ninth grader at Lewisville High School in Richburg, decided to enroll in the HCA after hearing about it in school. With physicians in her family, she was interested in learning more about the different health professions.

Ryleigh has enjoyed participating in different activities and meeting other health-sciences-oriented students, listing her favorite experience in the program as “getting to know a lot of new friends.”

A highlight of Ryleigh’s time in HCA was attending the Ernest E. Just Symposium in Charleston, an event that celebrates the life of the noted African-American biologist with a day devoted to providing information to students about opportunities in all colleges at MUSC. The morning contains a keynote session about the life and history of Ernest E. Just as well as student research project presentations. In the afternoon, students get to meet with admissions professionals and current MUSC students to learn more about their college of interest and have campus tours.

The growth Mid-Carolina AHEC’s HCA program has seen is highlighted by the increased interest in attending the Just Symposium. 

“Last year, we provided 10 students the opportunity to attend the E.E. Just Symposium,” said Mid-Carolina AHEC HCP Coordinator Whitney Amaker. “This year, our region was able to increase the student participation to 36 students. We are thrilled to be able to continue providing opportunities for students in our region like the annual trip to the E.E. Just Symposium.”

Ashika R.N., an eighth grader at Indian Land Middle School was connected with Mid-Carolina AHEC at her school’s career exploration day. In her first year in the HCA, she has participated in several online seminars and learned about the many different types of careers available in health sciences.

“[My favorite part] has been learning about the many incredible things in healthcare,” said Ashika. “Whether it is what job I want, or how to get scholarships and [repay] student loans, AHEC has really helped me understand what I want for myself in college.”

Shakshi P., a tenth grader at Hawthorne Christian Academy in Chester, is enjoying learning about all the different options available when it comes to attaining her goal of becoming a nurse.

“I found out about [HCP] through my school counselor,” said Shakshi. “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. [The program] has helped me learn more about being a nurse and how to further my career from that.”

Mid-Carolina AHEC provides the opportunity for HCP students to enroll in a program to obtain their Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification as graduating seniors. The course covers basic patient care and hands-on training in performing basic nursing tasks such as taking vital signs, moving patients and providing personal care. There has been an uptick in students taking advantage of the certification program recently, increasing from one student last year to six participants this year.

The future is bright for Mid-Carolina AHEC’s HCA program, and HCP coordinators Amaker and Rice continue to improve and establish new programs to continue interest in health careers.

A new experience being offered in Mid-Carolina AHEC’s HCA is an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Boot Camp, hosted this summer in Lexington County. Students will ride-along and experience first-hand what a day in the life of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) might look like. The purpose of the boot camp is to make students aware of opportunities to volunteer or work in a career in pre-hospital medicine. Once the first boot camp has been offered, there is an opportunity to continue expanding the program into different counties.

More information about Mid-Carolina AHEC programming can be found on their website at



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