North Carolina AHEC Program
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Southern Regional AHEC Health Careers Program Encourages Students to Explore Careers Beyond the Family Farm

Lana Carter witnessed it for far too long.

What she saw was that the youth she worked with in Bladen County were not preparing themselves for a career beyond the agriculture and manufacturing jobs that their parents had. She wanted local young people to understand that they couldn’t depend on those same jobs the way past generations did; and that there was a world of opportunities waiting for them. But Carter also knew there were limited resources to help students explore highly skilled, good paying jobs.

Lana CarterTo help students explore careers beyond the family farm, Carter (photo right) began A Step Forward, Inc., a non-profit community organization that works with the students in the Bladen County public schools. One of her first projects was to coordinate a career fair at East Arcadia Elementary School. That is when she called on the Health Careers Workforce and Diversity Program at Southern Regional AHEC to assist her. “That was more than three years ago, and the collaboration with AHEC has made a tremendous difference for these students,” says Carter, a nurse by profession.

Over the years, Carter’s students have been increasingly involved in the Southern Regional AHEC’s programs that introduce them to different careers in health care. “We have sent at least seven youths to the Future Leaders in Healthcare workshop,” Carter says, referring to the annual statewide conference offered by the NC AHEC Health Careers and Workforce Diversity Program.

“Southern Regional AHEC has also been the perfect partner for our middle school students at East Arcadia who already attend a three week health assessment program.” According to Carter, seventh- and eighth-grade students in the program are taught how to take a pulse and read blood pressure. They also learn medical terminology. “Those same students go to Project Reach Summer Camp at UNC-Pembroke in the summer,” she said.

Carter has seen students’ interest in health careers increase since her collaboration with Southern Regional AHEC’s Health Careers and Workforce Diversity program. “This is a small rural community," she said referring to East Arcadia, located on the southeastern tip of Bladen County. “Without the collaboration of A Step Forward, Inc. and Southern Regional AHEC, these students wouldn’t be exposed to health careers. It has sparked interest.”

Carter documents her findings as fact, recalling when a grandparent recently told her that because of these programs, her granddaughter was leaning toward a health career. “These programs provide structure, helps prepare them for college, and gets students thinking about the security offered by a career in health care,” Carter said. “I thank Southern Regional AHEC for their help and I am proud to say that, now, many youth see a way to move forward.”

Editor's Note: This story also appears in Touched by an AHEC.