Students from the first graduating class at Harlingen School of Health Professions share their thoughts about their time at Harlingen CISD’s unique medical campus during the weeks leading up to their commencement ceremony.

As seniors prepare to take the next step in their academic careers, “legacy students” from Harlingen School of Health Professions take time to reflect on their experience during these last few years.

Justin Vasquez remembers his anticipation when he initially learned of HSHP.

“I was very excited when I heard about HSHP because it was a new medical school for high-schoolers, which is very rare,” said Justin Vasquez. “I knew it would be challenging and that it was going to push me beyond my boundaries. I learned way more than I thought I would.”

HSHP offers six areas of study including the School of Pharmacology/Biomedical Technology, School of Medical Science Research, School of Sports Medicine, School of Patient Care, School of Surgical Procedures, and School of Dental Science. They also have the chance to earn their certification in Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Registered Dental Assistant (RDA), EKG Technician, or Pharmacy Technician.

Learning moments and challenges

Not only have students gained knowledge and experience in their fields of study, but they have also learned about time management, perseverance, and have even made a few self-discoveries.

“I learned that I’m a big procrastinator,” said Vasquez. “You come in fresh out of middle school thinking you could get by with minimal studying. Then you realize that you’re flooded with work. You have to take time to study, research, and prioritize what needs to be done.”

Then there was the great research paper of sophomore year, “Sophomore year; research paper; six pages!” said Vasquez to his classmate Hope Cano, “Remember that?!”

That year, Cano said they had corresponding assignments in their World History and English II classes. Students chose a topic in World History and wrote a research paper on that topic for English.

“It took the entire sophomore class by storm,” said Vasquez. “The due date for that project landed on the day of the Phoenix Games, so none of the sophomores attended. We worked on our project instead. I learned that I need to remain focused, to get rid of all that outside noise that constantly derails you.”

“I have learned that every challenge can be overcome with hard work and some encouragement from your support network,” said Cano. “All my friends, teachers, and Mrs. Garza have always pushed me beyond what I expect of myself.”

Daniel Villarreal recalls that during his first year, he assumed he would immediately be sent to work in a hospital.

“I did not realize the intricacies of the medical field,” said Villarreal. “When I came in I thought, gung-ho, we’re going out. Before you can even pick up a scalpel or anything, you have to know what you’re doing. Everything from greetings, hand washing, and procedures is what we learned. Though it wasn’t what I was expecting, I know it was exactly what I needed.”

Leaving a legacy

During their senior year, students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience through their Practicum II course where they shadow licensed healthcare professionals.

Students HSHP eagerly await this moment when they can show their community what they have learned. Katelyn Grant, who often hears the words, “I wish I had that opportunity when I was your age,” from hospital workers out in the field, counts herself fortunate to be part of the medical professions school.

“I wear my scrubs with great pride, especially within the hospital facilities,” said Grant. “People want to know if you’re a student and what school you’re from. I tell them I go to HSHP, and this is what I’m doing.”

In the practicum, every student has completed approximately 250 off-campus hours at sites within the community that include hospitals, specialized clinics, dental offices, pharmacy, and therapy sites. This is equivalent to almost 20,000 hours that students have contributed to Harlingen’s business community.

Soon “legacy students” will reach yet another milestone as they celebrate commencement at the HCISD Performing Arts Center in June.

“Nothing is too great for students to accomplish academically when you engage them in real-world scenarios that incorporate a medical focus,” said principal Tina Garza. “Our students embraced their experiences in their practicum courses and used that information to select their paths as they are finalizing their preparations to move on to their post-secondary experiences. Their dedication to the medical community sponsors and their patients has been unwavering. I am confident they will positively impact the medical field and their community wherever they reside.”

One hundred percent of the legacy class applied to college and were accepted. As a group, they have earned over two million dollars in scholarships.

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