Victoria East High School freshman Zoey Bailey, 15, wants to be a doctor one day.

Her goal of opening her own practice pushed her to apply for the Victoria school district’s new program: Pathway in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH. The program offers students a no cost path to post-high school credits and experience in a designated field of study. That field of study is currently health care, but the district is expanding that to include two others for the 2021-22 school year.

Education and computer science classes are also being added to the P-TECH program. The two new programs will be housed at Victoria West High School, while the health care pathway will continue to be housed at Victoria East High School.

The new career focuses mean an additional 90 students will be added to the program. Each of the new subjects will receive a 30-student cohort, and the health care program will receive its second class of 30.

District officials will hold a P-Tech recruiting night for the 2021-22 school year from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday and Monday at the Victoria Fine Arts Center. The recruitment is targeted at current eighth graders who will enter the program as freshmen.

Zoey is in the program’s first cohort of students in the health care pathway. She is one of 30 students who have the same teachers at Victoria East High School. The teachers all integrate health care into their classes whether it’s English, math or health.

For the remaining part of Zoey’s high school career, she will gradually learn more about the health care industry through her core and elective courses. She plans to graduate with an associate’s degree through the district’s dual credit program.

Zoey has known from a young age that she wanted to enter the medical field. So, when she heard about P-TECH, she knew she wanted to enter the program.

“I wanted to be a part of it because when I was little, my grandparents got sick a lot,” said Zoey, who added she has always felt good helping others and wanted to make that her career. “When I become a doctor, I can be there for (people).”

P-TECH is the first step in making Zoey’s career dreams come true, she said. She learns something new everyday.

“I knew it was going to benefit me in life for what I wanted to become,” she said. “That’s going to help me a lot to become a doctor.”

Students are selected for the program through a weighted lottery, P-TECH administrator Martin Sanchez said.

Students who come from an underprivileged background or are a first generation-college student have their names entered in the “lottery” more times, Sanchez said. All the students are then randomly selected for the program.

As part of the program, students gain workplace experiences through classroom visits from industry professionals and the integration of medical field knowledge in any one of their classes, Sanchez said. Students also have the ability to graduate with their associate’s degree depending on how many dual credit courses they can fit into their schedules.

“They are taking their graduation requirements, but they are also taking a career and technical education course that focuses on health care.”

The career and technical education class this year is about principles of health science. The freshman students take the class with Naomi Barker, who is in her first year of teaching after a 10 year career as a nurse.

Barker taught her students about the layers of the skin during her principles of health science class Tuesday afternoon.

During the class, she described the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis and their functions as her P-TECH students busily took notes.

“With 10 years experience in the nursing field, (the district) felt that would be helpful for the students that are going into the medical field,” Barker said. “We thought bringing my knowledge and nursing skills would be helpful for the kids.”

Barker said the program is a great way for students to learn about the health field and discover where their passion lies.

“It’s a good program because they do focus a little bit more on those students and getting into the right health care path,” she said.

Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said the programs that are offered through P-TECH are geared for the Victoria community. It has several hospitals, nursing homes and other health care options for the students after they graduate.

The district partnered with Victoria College for the health care portion of P-TECH, and Shepherd is developing a partnership with the University of Houston-Victoria for more pathways like education.

“This is something that makes sense for our community,” he said.

Shepherd said he is excited to see how the program continues to grow in the coming years as well as seeing the current class graduate in three years.

“When these kids walk the stage they have an ‘and,’” he said. “The ‘and’ is an associate’s degree out of high school.”

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Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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Sad. This is what we teach. Its called equal weighted opportunity. A great event for those that really qualify.

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