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Recent high school grads connect with healthcare careers at VC

June 23, 2012 at 1:23 a.m.

Angel Soderholtz discovers medical laboratory technology at VC in AHEC healthcare careers exploration days.

Angel Soderholtz, a recent Austwell-Tivoli High School graduate, now knows she wants to start her career by enrolling at Victoria College in the fall.

She wants to eventually apply to the Medical Laboratory Technology Program.

Soderholtz, 17, along with 10 soon-to-be seniors and recent graduates from Austwell-Tivoli, Refugio and Victoria East, spent a week exploring healthcare careers at local hospitals, VC and the University of Houston-Victoria.

Students who participated in the Encouraging the College-bound into Healthcare Occupations Program over the past year were invited to attend.

"As a reward for successful completion of the ECHO Program, each year we invite students to attend this week-long exploration of their local resources in higher education and employment options," said Jody Sanders, senior program director for Texas AHEC East-Victoria Region.

Sponsored by the Texas Area Health Education Center East-Victoria Region, this annual Healthcare Careers Program introduces students to a variety of career choices within the healthcare industry. The ECHO Program is funded by a grant through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, providing support for students who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.

In conjunction with participating high school counselors and school Health Occupation Student Associations, the ECHO Program requires students to complete career-related meetings, projects and other hands-on activities throughout the school year.

After this final week of the ECHO Program, each student has the opportunity to apply for one of five $1,500 scholarships.

Throughout their week of exploration, students were given the opportunity to speak directly with healthcare professionals, instructors and current students to learn about healthcare education and careers in a variety of settings.

Instructors, along with current VC students, were on hand to involve students in hands-on activities and demonstrations throughout VC's Division of Allied Health.

It was during the medical laboratory activities that Soderholtz discovered her interest in analyzing and testing samples.

"I really enjoyed the lab activity for medical laboratory technology, testing for blood antigens and finding blood types like you would at a blood bank," said Soderholtz. "I also want to learn phlebotomy."

Fellow Austwell-Tivoli graduate Joseph Longoria, 19, plans to complete his core classes at VC and then transfer to the University of Texas at Austin to become a pharmacist. He credits Sanders for encouraging him with ongoing support.

"She helped me a lot after I got discouraged when people said I wouldn't be able to go to college," said Longoria. "I emailed her and she told me I could do it. She's always been there for me."

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