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Local charter school has creative plans in getting young people engaged in healthcare careers

Leticia Archuleta
Health Leadership High School

New Mexicans seeking health care are facing increasing wait times for crucial appointments. According to a Legislative Finance Committee report, the state is in need of more health care workers than any other profession. While the state looks at loan forgiveness and recruitment and retention efforts, a local high school aims to raise the next generation of these professionals.

Mariah Marquez is a sophomore at Health Leadership High School, a free public charter school in Albuquerque. She’s also a first generation Mexican-American and says she always wanted to pursue health care, especially since she has seen the impacts of limited access.

“Just to help those in my community, especially those who come over and trying to get their papers. So, health care has really hit home especially because for a while my? parents didn’t have a lot of health care growing up” said Marquez.

Leticia Archuleta, Executive Director at the school said, the program is taking a look at what a meaningful education looks like for young people today and giving them a chance to become the next leaders by seeing themselves have a future in healthcare.

“Who better to serve the community than the community members themselves? So, our students are learning, engaging, practicing in the sector so that they can really gain a strong understanding about what it means to serve the community” said Archuleta.

It’s estimated that 25% of students in New Mexico live in poverty and Archuleta said those disparities worsened after the pandemic as these kids now more than ever needed to help offset their family’s income.

Archuleta said what’s different about the high school is that every student is paid to participate in an internship at clinics and hospitals every afternoon in order to apply the project-based curriculum taught in classrooms.

“We need to give our students an opportunity to still be able to engage in the practice and career that they want to embark in while still being able to honor the opportunity for them to get paid,” Archuleta said.

Marquez said she hopes to complete all four years at Health Leadership High School and graduate with her associate’s degree. She’d like to see this type of program implemented in all schools to get students motivated about their futures.

“With programs like this, you’re able to at least have some guidance so you can at least get some ideas of what you want to do and start exploring” Marquez said.

Archuleta said that the high school offers small class sizes and on average graduates about 40 students each school year.

Open enrollment is currently underway at Health Leadership High School and is based on a lottery system.

Additional resources:

Health Leadership High School: A Case Study in Innovation

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.