Whitney Ihezue, who graduated from Dallas Ranch Middle School last year, plans to become a pharmacist. So what better high school in Antioch to attend than Dozier-Libbey Medical High School?
This week Whitney joined 214 other freshman students to comprise the first class at the innovative magnet school, which Principal Nancie Castro has nicknamed Med High.
When I first heard of this school, I thought that instead of going to a regular, normal high school, I might as well go to a medical high school that could teach me more, said Whitney. I am kind of scared and excited too. I am happy I got in, because I was number one on the waiting list.
Also happy is Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Deborah Sims, who discussed the school in a joint interview with Castro in Castro's office last week.
We are very, very excited, very pleased, she said. Nancie Castro coming to the district with experience and taking this initiative on has just been phenomenal. She has researched best practices and she's visited and met administrators and teachers of medical magnet schools and has really brought to Dozier-Libbey the best of practices, the best thinking in terms of what a high school can be.
On Monday, 215 students are going to walk through the doors with hopes and dreams, and she's ensured that the entire staff will be the keepers of their dreams to provide hands-on learning through the rigorous curriculum that they will be able to reach their goals.
Dozier-Libbey is named after two Antioch doctors who delivered thousands of babies, and Castro described the school's opening in appropriately natal terms: The kids on Monday, it's like having 215 babies it's delivery day. It's very exciting.
Med High is Antioch's first high school in which the students will wear uniforms fittingly enough, hospital scrubs. And while the students will take many of the same classes required in other high schools, at Med High much of the teaching will provide tie-ins to health care.
The theme that runs throughout the curriculum of the freshman class is nutrition and fitness, said Castro. In P.E. they take a fitness model where they set their fitness goals, take body mass measurements and use heart rate monitors. They will use the data from P.E. and graph that in math classes. They will learn about malnutrition, eating disorders, obesity.
In mid year, they will write an essay on all of the things they learned. Then they will work in teams to create a healthy nutrition campaign and roll it out at one of our middle schools. Our biggest thing is we want to make learning relevant for kids. To have a real, live experience, not just seeing a video, so they can apply what they are learning.
The students were chosen from a random lottery of 463 applicants selected by an outside group. If a student decides that a regular high school might be better, there will be an opportunity to transfer to Deer Valley or Antioch High after a meeting with the student and parents.
This week is the culmination of two years of work for Castro she was hired as principal before ground was even broken to build the high school. In the past eight months, she's been working with the 14 teachers (some of them part-time) to get them more familiar with the medical field.
They are very dedicated and very excited to be here, said Castro. We call us the Dream Team; we are going to the Super Bowl. We want to put in all of the effort to make a championship team.
To bring real-world experience and inspiration to the students, the school will invite experts from the medical profession to speak at lunchtime and in classrooms. Students will also take field trips to medical facilities (Kaiser Hospital is just a short walk from Med High).
That's so they can open their mind about the hundreds of areas in health care there are, said Castro. Students say they want to be pediatricians and veterinarians they like babies and puppies and don't realize all of the fields you can go into. They will have tons of experience immersing themselves in different areas of health care.
In junior year, the students will job-shadow health care providers, and in their senior year, they will have the opportunity for serve in internships at medical facilities in the area.