Washington High School's Medical Magnet program healing the future!

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NBC's third annual Education Nation Summit continued Friday in New York. All week long they have been bringing together experts to explore ways to improve education in America.

One South Bend High School thinks it has already found the answer by offering students an experience few high schools share.

A walk down the halls at Washington High, might make some feel like they have been dropped on the movie set of NBC's popular and long running drama, ER.

Students who are enrolled in the schools Medical Allied Health Sciences Magnet program go to class in scrubs making it feel like they are walking the halls of ER's ficticious County General Hospital.

Now in its ninth year at Washington, the program was initially designed with money from a federal grant.

Assistant Principal Jim Seitz says it introduces students to more than two hundred health care related careers, preparing them for college and beyond.

"That ultimately is the step we want, to create productive citizens in college and then eventually as they graduate college, become doctors and nurses. Or maybe they get of the the medical field and become successful business people," he said.

Its most well known graduate so far is Notre Dame Women's basketball superstar guard Skylar Diggins.

Students must apply for the four year program and Washington recruits from the middle schools.

Martha Lustik has been with the program since the beginning and has seen in flourish. The curriculum is intertwined with all of their coursework.

She explains, "We work hand in hand with their English and their Biology and their Spanish. So when we're doing medical terminology in their courses in health science they may be doing medical technology in their Spanish. They all took Medical Spanish because Spanish will give them a leg up in the medical community."

A community in which the students are immersed, both in their own in-school on site clinicals overseen and taught by registered nurses.

And the students get hands-on, real life experience.

Junior and Senior Year takes them outside the classroom and into the real world.

Senior Edgar Ramos says he wants to be a surgeon, adding "Not only does it teach you about medicine, it teaches you how to be a better person, about time management, all these skills you'll need to survive in the adult world."

Anthony Douglas wants to be an obstetrician and has already shadowed a South Bend OB/GYN doctor.

"I've been able to assist in a pregnancy exam while I've been with him and also I've been in a couple of surgeries," said Douglas.

Jennifer Zymkowiak is hoping to become a veterinarian and says, "Right now I am doing my clinicals at Western Vet and I've actually been able to be in surgery."

Senior Alexis O'Brien wants to go on to college and become a Pediatric Nurse Practicioner. "I've been able to go into the hospital and go into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and learn a lot."

Logan Francis wants to go on to medical school and become an OB/GYN and is getting great experience, saying, "Right now I am in an internship at Memorial Hospital and I am with a nurse in labor and delivery."

Emily Castro sees her education leading to working in a laboratory, "They actually gave me an internship at Memorial Hospital for breast cancer research."

Both Assistant Principal Seitz and Program Coordinate Lustik say the program puts these kids ahead of the curve.

"We have students that are graduating from high school who have seen hip replacements and knee replacements. They've seen babies born," said Lustik.

And just as importantly Seitz adds, "We're really teaching them the core values of what it means to become a successful human being, because at some point, they're going to have to take over for us."

It is something to ponder while thinking about the path that education should take for future generations.

And it's paying off for Washington graduates.

Since their first graduating class in 2008, sign up for the program has increased by 58 percent and last year's graduating class got 2.1 million dollars in financial aid and grants for college.

Washing is also proud of many other programs they offer including their After School Learning Program that has up to 125 students show up after school every day for tutoring by Washington staff and Bethel College Students.