Putting her education to work
How a career-geared program and a supportive coach put a rural student on track for professional success
Elsa was a high school sophomore in Marsing, Idaho, when she joined PTECH. Older students already in the program told her about taking career-specific community college courses while still in high school. In Elsa’s case, that meant working to become a medical assistant. “I always wanted to be in a health care or medical field, and PTECH gave me a way to make that happen,” she recalls. “We got to go to college campuses to learn about their health care programs and we went to St. Luke’s Hospital to learn about careers. That’s when I realized how many health care jobs there were.”
Working for college
For Elsa, the financial concerns associated with going to college have always been a worry. That’s one of the reasons the first step on her higher ed career journey was completing a medical assistant program (in less than a year) and passing the national certification. She needed to be able to make money so she could afford everyday living costs and help fund further education. To that end, Elsa has begun her foray into the medical profession by working three days a week in an urgent care facility. Here, she stocks the rooms, makes sure the triage area is always ready, and enacts quality controls for autoclaved instruments and temperature-controlled vaccines.
“I didn’t want to graduate from high school not knowing what I was going to do next. And I wanted to set an example for my siblings.” – Elsa, participant, Idaho PTECH
Beginning classes this fall to earn her nursing degree will be the culmination of her hard work, making her the first person in her family to attend college. “I wanted to do something with my life,” she says. “I didn’t want to graduate from high school not knowing what I was going to do next. And I wanted to set an example for my siblings.”
“Elsa has always been brave and faced her challenges. Most people shy away from the thing that’s scary, but not Elsa.” – Hayley Kimble, coach, InsideTrack
According to her coach Hayley, Elsa is not just setting an example but also setting the bar high. And her actions speak even louder than her aspirations. “Elsa has always been brave and faced her challenges,” says Hayley. “Most people shy away from the thing that’s scary, but not Elsa.”
The power of coaching
How important was it for Elsa to have a coach in her corner? “I would have felt lost without Hayley,” she says. “I can tell her anything. She’s always there for me. We talk about specific topics and she helps keep me on track and focusing on my career. And even though the coaching is over, she still checks in on me and I know I can always reach out.”
“I want a future for myself and my family. Now I have that.” – Elsa, participant, Idaho PTECH
So how does Elsa sum up her PTECH experience? “I want a future for myself and my family. Now I have that.”
Working to close the opportunity gap
As the divide between rural and urban continues to widen — both in terms of job and population growth — it’s critical to give high school students a clear path to a career that provides them with a livable wage and the ability to remain in the area. By incorporating one-on-one coaching into a program’s support strategy, institutions, employers, and students all win. Students who may not have otherwise been considering college have a champion on their side — someone who helps them identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and develop successful time-management and academic habits — building a relationship that will motivate each student to reach their full potential.
Through the use of coaching in the Idaho PTECH program, Elsa and other rural students were able to obtain the college degrees and workplace skills required for high-growth industries in their own backyard, helping to bridge the gap between education and industry.