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Pinning ceremony for students after completing the health sciences program at Del Mar College

18 high school students from Freer and Premont received their white coats and pins.

PREMONT, Texas — Freer and Premont High School students earn white coats and pins through Del Mar College's rural school's initiative.

They may only be in high school, but already a group of students from two rural communities are well on their way to careers in health care.

In fact, a special pinning ceremony was held Wednesday for those students after completing a health sciences program through Del Mar College.

Just like college-age students who pursue healthcare training at Del Mar, 18 high school students from Freer and Premont ISDs took to the stage at the Richardson Performance Hall to receive their white coats and pins.

"It means a lot! It's like a starting point for me," said Emily Martinez, a Freer High School Senior.

The students completed the 64-hour EKG program thanks to Del Mar's Rural Schools Innovation Zone Initiative which is helping prepare the next group of health care workers.

The focus is to make sure students from rural school have the same opportunity as students in bigger cities.

"Bringing education opportunities to them in rural areas like Premont and Freer and Brooks County is so important to the kids' growth and academic opportunities they will have," said Dr. Leonard Rivera, Dean of the DMC Continuing Education & Off-Campus Programs.

Some students will remain in the program to earn additional healthcare certifications, but other students will be entering into the healthcare field as EKG technicians as soon as high school graduation.

"It's the first of four certificates they will obtain, their EKG, phlebotomy, patient care tech, and certified nurse's assistance before they complete the entire program," said Michael Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Rural Schools Innovation Zone.

"We started this program several years ago and this is the most success we've had in one particular class," said Conrad Cantu, Freer ISD Superintendent.

School leaders say what the students learn today will save someone tomorrow by building a strong future for high quality healthcare workers in the region.

"This really shows what can happen when districts collaborate and put the kids' interest at the forefront," said Steven VanMatre, Premont ISD Superintendent.

The students have been awarded 6.4 continuing education units, credits that can be used toward an associate degree offered through the college. 

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