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The anxiety over the spread of COVID-19 (a.k.a. coronavirus) in the early months of 2020 makes one thing abundantly clear: we rely on a top-notch health care system to keep us healthy.

And alive.

The most important element in the health care system is simple. It’s the quality of people—and the quality of their training—that counts the most.

So, come with us now to central California, to a town called Sanger—about 16 miles east of Fresno, in one of the most impoverished counties in the country. About one out of every four families lives below the poverty line.

Certainly a career in the health care industry would be an attractive ticket to a better future for students working their way through high school today—and that’s where Valley ROP, headquartered in Sanger, comes in.

Valley ROP (Regional Occupational Center) is one of many such ROPs that operate around the state of California. They were formed in the 1970’s to provide high-quality career technical education to students in high school and adults, too.

Valley ROP provides courses and training for students from seven nearby school districts, including 12 high schools. Many students, of course, aspire to careers in the medical field.

The earlier that high school students become comfortable with grasping human anatomy—the bedrock foundational training for pursuing careers from sports medicine to nursing—the better. Right?

But students who are enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant training program through Valley ROP, however, struggle when they head to college.

About 65 percent of students make the transition to the more challenging college courses.

Another 35 percent, however, do not.

But Valley ROP Superintendent Fabrizio Lofaro wasn’t satisfied, knowing so many students saw dreams fade away.

So Superintendent Lofaro talked with the deans at Fresno City College and Reedley College. What could Valley ROP do differently to help more students prepare? Lofaro discovered that students at the high school level needed another year of science and a stronger foundation in physiology, biology, and anatomy to be prepared for the challenges ahead.

With its emphasis on CTE, of course, Valley ROP is home to many classes where hands-on learning (aviation to multimedia arts, for instance) plays a major role.

However, the anatomy courses involved no hands-on learning..

Until now.

Superintendent Lofaro recalled seeing the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System at a national conference. Recently, he wrote a grant to support the purchase of 32 full Maniken® kits and is preparing to roll them out next school year. The first step was to provide professional development for about a dozen teachers, held earlier this year.

“They loved it,” said Lofaro. “I don’t think they understood what it was, at first, and how rigorous it becomes. But once they saw the application and once they saw the benefits they were saying, ‘now we need more training on anatomy.’”

The Anatomy in Clay® Learning System will be used for courses in Medical Terminology, CPR/First Aid, and Sports Medicine. Superintendent Lofaro is particularly optimistic that students will find that building human anatomy in clay will prove useful when it comes to passing a critical gatekeeper class: Medical Terminology.

“It’s daunting and dry,” said Lofaro. “You’re basically memorizing terms and figuring out how they apply to human anatomy and that involve very abstract concepts for a fifteen-year-old to grasp. But once you start building that same system, on a Maniken, you’re conceptualizing where everything is. Anatomy in Clay is going to be a tool that really helps.”

We hope that leads to a higher percentage of students making the transition from high school to college.

And from college, of course, to career.

That will mean brighter futures for those students, of course, and brighter futures for all of us.








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