La’Mai Range knew she wanted a career in nursing. What she didn’t know was how to pay for her education.
Her Linn-Mar High School counselor had the answer.
“I only had one class left to take my senior year,” La’Mai, 18, said. “My counselor called me in to discuss my options and that’s when I learned about Career Academies.”
Kirkwood’s Career Academy programs help high school juniors and seniors from more than 40 Eastern Iowa high schools get a head start on their post-secondary school path. With a collection of courses focused around specific careers or areas of interest, participants can earn credits that count toward their high school diploma and future college degree – at no cost to them or their parents.
“I didn’t know I could take college classes while still in high school,” La’Mai said.
Once she did, however, she quickly enrolled.
La’Mai attended the Patient Care Exploration Academy at Kirkwood’s Linn County Regional Center, where she learned patient care from healthcare professionals in a clinical setting. She also took several Liberal Arts classes.
“I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
Soon she was too busy to be nervous. La’Mai quickly learned that while her instructors were there to help her learn, she was responsible for the results.
“You’re on your own,” La’Mai said. “College teachers aren’t going to tell you when to go class or keep reminding you of assignments that are due. You have to take responsibility.”
Many freshmen struggle their first year of college because they haven’t experienced that level of independence. La’Mai is grateful her experience was different.
“I was able to learn how to do college without the stress of paying for it,” she said.
Knowing that the learning curve had financial protection allowed La’Mai to focus on learning first. By the time the school year ended, she had a high school diploma, a handful of college credits, and was a Certified Nursing Assistant, having passed the Iowa Nurse Aide Certification Exam.
The Career Academy paid her testing fee.
La’Mai is now a full-time student in Kirkwood’s nursing program. Her long-term goal is to be a nurse practitioner in labor and delivery. She has several years of school ahead of her, but she’s happy she accepted the challenge of starting early.
“I’d tell any high school student to try Career Academy,” La’Mai said. “They don’t have to know what they want to do in order to be successful, but they have to be willing to take on the commitment. It’s worth it.”