Introducing KC HealthTracks

Eleven Kansas City area high schools will be part of KC HealthTracks, a new biosciences education and workforce training program led by UMKC. Photo from KC STEM Alliance

UMKC awarded $2.5 million grant to coordinate robust STEM education and workforce preparation in seven area school districts

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies and the School of Computing and Engineering, working with community partners including KC STEM Alliance and seven school districts, received a five-year grant for $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health National Workforce Diversity Pipeline.

The grant forms KC HealthTracks to create improved STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum and experiences for students from 11 under-resourced Kansas City area high schools. The goal is to prepare the students for higher education and career paths in healthcare and biosecurity.

During the five-year project period, 200 students enrolled in biomedical sciences classes — 40 per year — will receive educational support from UMKC faculty advisers as mentors; campus visits at UMKC; a UMKC-hosted summer program; extensive lab and simulation experiences; Project Lead the Way curriculum content specialization; CPR certification; math and science tutoring; and ACT preparation.

“The collaboration between the School of Nursing and Health Studies and School of Computing and Engineering is a prime example of UMKC’s commitment to cultivating a workforce prepared for careers in STEM in partnership with the KC STEM Alliance,” said Ann Cary, dean of the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies and the principal investigator of the grant. “Developing and strengthening a pipeline of academically prepared high school students in biosciences is in the best interest of protecting the health of the public. KC HealthTracks students in the metro KC area will benefit immensely from this opportunity and investment.”

“Through partnerships like this one, we can leverage community resources to empower young people in developing the skills and knowledge needed to be competitive in a 21st century economy,” said Kevin Truman, dean of the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering. “With STEM careers being some of the highest paid and most in-demand, investing in educational programs provides opportunities which might not otherwise be available.”

“This award is a testament to the collaborative nature of our region as we work together in creating a more diverse health care workforce,” said Laura Loyacono, executive director of the Kansas City STEM Alliance. “We look upon this as an incredible opportunity to broaden the career aspirations of our urban core students, and to encourage them to think beyond traditional jobs in health care.”

With UMKC and the KC STEM Alliance, the KC HealthTracks partners are the Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley’s Health Science Institute, Project Lead the Way, West Central Missouri AHEC (Area Health Education Center) and Missouri HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America). Independent evaluation of KC HealthTracks will be provided by the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium.

The Kansas City area high schools and districts that will be part of KC HealthTracks are Center High School from the Center School District; Fort Osage High School from the Fort Osage School District; Grandview High School from the Grandview School District; Ruskin High School from the Hickman Mills School District; Truman High School, William Chrisman High School and Van Horn High School from the Independence School District; East High School from Kansas City Public Schools; and North Kansas City High School, Oak Park High School and Winnetonka High School from North Kansas City Schools. Funding to the districts will be used for teacher salaries as they teach Project Lead the Way courses.

Interim Superintendent Allan Tunis expressed his gratitude to UMKC for including Kansas City Public Schools in the KC HealthTracks grant.

“This grant means that we will help more of our deserving, hardworking students get on the right track – and stay on the right track – as they pursue vital health and wellness careers,” Tunis said. “As our students move through this program, it will lead to healthier families, which will lift our entire community. I am thrilled that KCPS has been included in this grant and I am excited to see what our young people accomplish as a result.”

“The Independence School District is thrilled to be part of the KC HealthTracks collaboration receiving these grant funds,” said Brad MacLaughlin, assistant superintendent of secondary instruction for the Independence School District. “The Health & Public Services Academies in each of our high schools are already focused on embedding industry partners into our academy pathways to improve student understanding of the many career fields that await them. These resources will have an immediate positive impact our students who have chosen biomedical sciences courses within the Health & Public Services Academy. It is our responsibility to implement, sustain and grow students’ access and knowledge of STEM. The baseline of STEM knowledge in the workforce is growing exponentially. This funding will help us match the skills of our graduates with the needs of the workforce.”

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