Hundreds of high school students learn about health care careers at UNK event – UNK News

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UNK Communications

KEARNEY – More than 300 students from 54 different high schools gathered Wednesday at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and they all have one thing in common.

They are interested in a career in healthcare.

Joined by another 150 current UNK students, these future doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists gathered for the annual campus health career fair.

Hosted by UNK Health Sciences, the event gives attendees the opportunity to meet employers and representatives from various professional schools while learning about UNK and its academic programs. It’s part of the Health Science Explorers program, a UNK initiative that addresses the continued need for health care workers by introducing more middle and high school students to these careers and educational pathways.

“There is such a shortage of healthcare professionals right now, and high school is the age when students are really trying to decide where they want to go to school and what their major is going to be. We want to show them all the different options and hope to direct more people to these health care careers,” said Sara Brunner, coordinator of the Health Science Explorers program.

Representatives from UNK and other state and regional higher education institutions were on hand to share information about training programs, and several local health care providers were on hand to answer questions and discuss job opportunities. Students also participated in breakout sessions focused on job tracking, nursing, medical laboratory science, and radiography.

Alisen Jelinek, a senior at Aquinas Catholic High School in David City, was among more than 450 students in attendance Wednesday during UNK's annual Health Care Career Fair.
Alisen Jelinek, a senior at Aquinas Catholic High School in David City, was among more than 450 students in attendance Wednesday during UNK’s annual Health Care Career Fair.

Alisen Jelinek, a student at Aquinas Catholic High School in David City, already plans to pursue a career in pharmacy, so she’s focused on learning more about the next step in her education.

Jelinek wants to attend UNK, following in the footsteps of her mother, Amy, who works as a pharmacist at the Butler County Health Center, and is interested in the Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP). A collaboration between UNK and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, KHOP is available to students from rural Nebraska who are committed to practicing in these fields as medical professionals. Participants receive a full tuition scholarship to attend UNK and guaranteed admission to UNMC if all requirements are met. The KHOP Learning Community provides additional support, mentoring and professional development opportunities for first-year UNK students, along with a $2,000 room waiver.

Back in David City, Jelinek prepared for his career by shadowing work at a local pharmacy.

“That experience is really valuable because it sort of solidifies whether or not you want to go into a particular field,” she said.

At Gothenburg High School, guidance counselor Jerry Wiggins is seeing more and more students interested in health care.

“And there’s a great need across the country,” he noted.

Wiggins brought eight seniors to the UNK Health Careers Fair, an event he has attended since the beginning. He wants to expose students to a wide range of options in higher education and get them thinking about college.

“For some of our students, this is the first time they’ve actually set foot on a college campus,” Wiggins said. “That opportunity to just walk around campus serves a purpose for them.”

For employers like CHI Health, the career fair is the perfect place to connect with their future talent pool and promote their positions.

“This event allows us to make those connections and show students that there are many different career opportunities in health care,” said Jill England, who recruits for CHI Health Good Samaritan in Kearney and CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island.

In addition to high salaries and job stability, the healthcare industry offers another advantage that many careers cannot. This allows employees to truly influence others and help improve their lives.

“If that’s something that really drives you, then healthcare is definitely the place for you,” England said.


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