Amarillo College hosting 200 Palo Duro students for Health Sciences Showcase


By Joe Wyatt

Approximately 200 students from Palo Duro High School will converge on Amarillo College’s West Campus – from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, April 16 – for the third annual Health Sciences Showcase.

Those students, along with some Palo Duro administrators and counselors, will explore more than a dozen accredited healthcare programs offered at AC, from dental hygiene and physical therapy to nuclear medicine and nursing.

“We are excited to introduce so many students to the many rewarding programs we offer in the health sciences at our West Campus,” said Phyllis Pastwa, an instructor of nursing at AC. Pastwa is the chief architect of the outreach program that invites interested Palo Duro students to AC for the Showcase each spring.

“Whether they ultimately go to AC or to another institution doesn’t matter;” Pastwa said. “The main thing is to give them a first-hand look at the possibilities presented by careers in the health sciences, and to reinforce their enthusiasm.”

The Showcase is for Palo Duro students in grades 9-12, but those soon to become seniors are additionally eligible to be paired with mentors through an extension of the initiative called the Helping Heroes Mentorship program.

Volunteers are recruited primarily, although not exclusively, from the professional ranks at Baptist Saint Anthony’s Health Care System (BSA) and Northwest Texas Hospital (NWTH) to guide and encourage the students with whom they are matched.

Currently there are 21 Palo Duro students being served by 12 Helping Heroes mentors.

“I’ve been touched over the past year by two young ladies who will be part of my life forever,” said Michele Gorday, a mentor and AC graduate who supervises the catheterization and electrophysiology lab at BSA Hospital. “I’ve tried to instill in them the belief that they can go to college, that if they have a dream it is doable.”

One of Gorday’s charges this past year has been Cer Sung, an aspiring forensic pathologist who will graduate from Palo Duro in May and plans to enroll this summer at AC.

“Michele took a personal interest in me,” Sung said. “She told me to follow my heart, and she let me job-shadow her at her work. It was really cool. It showed me that the people who work at a place like BSA really care about the people they serve. It encouraged me to be a better person.”

In addition to focusing on all the academic programs that are offered at AC’s West Campus, Pastwa says participants at this year’s Showcase also will be introduced to the many programs AC has in place that support student success. Resources such as a grant-funded tutoring center, opportunities for childcare, travel vouchers and even the AC Food Pantry will be on display at the event.

“We care about the future of our community and the young people in it,” Pastwa said. “AC has a number of excellent resources that have been put in place specifically to ensure that our students can be and are successful. We want those who choose to further their educations at AC know they will have our full support, whether through mentorships or specific services, from start to finish.”

Pastwa credits Becky Matthews, instructor of nursing at AC, for her valuable assistance in helping organize the Showcase.

For more information about the Health Sciences Showcase at Amarillo College on Monday, April 16, please contact Pastwa at (806) 467-3002 or plpastwa@actx.edu.

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