ECISD, Odessa College, medical community announce strategic partnership
ECISD Superintendent Tom Crowe has often said, “Students begin to check out mentally in middle school. They drop out physically in high school.” An innovative new collaboration is taking aim at that dynamic by creating partnerships designed to engage students in career exploration with local medical institutions.
Odessa businessman Ravi Shakamuri and his company, Star Tech Group, is the driving force behind ACCESS – Avatar Center for Communication, Engagement, & Student Success. The premise begins with Odessa College’s 6 Commitments for College2Career readiness, integrates the ACCESS software and student/parent portal from Star Tech, and builds upon that through partnerships with three local hospitals targeting ECISD’s six middle schools.
“The focus is on what each campus needs,” said Mr. Shakamuri at the introductory press conference on Friday, June 15. “What do the teacher and the students need? At the end of the day results matter. We want to align community resources in a strategic way that impacts ECISD.”
OC’s 6 Commitments, implemented in 2017, includes hiring College2Career Coaches for all ECISD middle schools, admitting all 8th graders through “informational admissions”, placing College2Career Coaches at Odessa High School and Permian High School, and offering the first six semester hours of dual credit courses for free. “We are a part of this educational ecosystem,” OC President Dr. Gregory Williams said of the new collaboration. “We rise or we fall together.”
Each middle school will have a Campus Champion who will coordinate the work and help identify students’ career interests through the Avatar Career application. The Campus Champions will work with the hospitals to set up campus presentations done by medical professionals. Odessa Regional Medical Center will serve Nimitz MS and Crockett MS, Medical Center Health System will work with Bonham MS and Bowie MS, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center will partner with Wilson & Young MS and Ector MS Success Academy. These collaborations will allow middle school students to learn about careers in the medical field, shadow local professionals, view online lectures, and ultimately lead to internships, mentoring and career advice for high school students.
Matt Collins, MCHS Vice President Support Services & Clinical Operations said, “We are very invested in the well-being of our community,” he said. “We really see this as an opportunity to invest in the community beyond just the medicine that we provide; to be able to mentor and develop the future of some of these kids.”
“We have a great medical community right here,” added Mr. Crowe. “If we can connect our kids to that and they can see a future there, it can give them a whole new perspective on what their future might be.”
The ACCESS portal can also – with prior approval from parents – track health, nutrition, and fitness information for students, promoting healthy lifestyles and improved fitness.
Star Tech and Odessa College are funding this initiative. There is no cost to the school district.