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Lexington One Center molds next generation of medical professionals

Lexington, SC - High schoolers face a myriad of choices… whether to play sports, join the yearbook or newsletter staff, pursue marching band, join a club, become part of student government…. For those Lexington County School District One students who chose to apply to the Center for Public Health and Advanced Medical Studies, their decision stretches them academically but leaves them well prepared for a future as a medical professional.

Lexington District One opened this Center on the campus of White Knoll High in 2011. Today, students compete for a much sought-after place in the Center.

“Studying here is one of the best decisions I could have made in my high school career,” WKHS Senior Jenny Nankoua said. “It’s nice to be surrounded by students who truly care about their education.”

From medical diagnostics to fetal pigs awaiting dissection to dreaming up new medical inventions, the Center offers students an early glimpse into the fields of surgery, genetic research and biomedical science through rigorous coursework and engaging projects. Based on Project Lead The Way’s biomedical curriculum, courses at the Center go beyond the basics.

“We dive deeper into the content and give students a fuller understanding of these subjects,” said Melanie Piro, who teaches senior-level courses.

Like Lexington One’s other Centers for Advanced Study, the Center for Public Health and Advanced Medical Studies is open to students from across the district. It started with 68 students in 2011 and now serves approximately 110 students in its three-year, six-semester program.

Students attend classes at the Center for half of the school day and attend school at their home school the other half of the day.

Students apply during their freshman year and, once accepted, remain with the program from their sophomore year until graduation. Administrators look at a student’s GPA, attendance record and credits earned when selecting applicants for the program.

“I like that we’re helping shape future medical professionals,” said Abby Beard, sophomore-level teacher and recruiter for the Center.

Two students new to the Center this year, Sophomores Megan Mazzei and Robert Prost from Lexington High, applied as preparation for medical school and eventual careers as surgeons.

“I wanted to be challenged and the Center allows me to do that,” Mazzei said. “The demanding coursework and hands-on activities are the best of both worlds.”

Coming to the Center requires an extra level of commitment for students like Prost, who gets up early to ride the bus to LHS before getting on another bus to WKHS. He says the early mornings are worth it due to the high level of instruction he’s receiving.

“The hands-on projects leave a bigger impact than lectures. I retain almost everything,” he said.

In her final year at the Center, WKHS Senior Karla Luevano selected gel electrophoresis, a laboratory method used to separate DNA, as one of her favorite projects.

“We’re introduced to a lot of different technology actually used in the medical field, things we wouldn’t normally be exposed to outside of the Center,” she said.

“Graduates of the Center come back and tell us how prepared they were for college,” Beard agreed.

Potential careers for students who graduate from the Center include biomedical engineer, doctor, registered nurse, forensic scientist, medical researcher and public health administrator, among many others.

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