AUSTIN (KXAN) — LBJ Early College High School is a construction zone. The walls of three classrooms on the first floor have been wiped out and are being replaced with a new design.
“I feel like we’re transforming into something beautiful,” said principal Sheila Henry. “I can’t wait.”
By the first day of school, part of the campus should look more like a mini hospital. Seton Healthcare Family has already dropped off donated medical equipment included patient beds, IV stands and blood pressure machines for students to train with.
It’s phase one of a new pre-health science program launching this school year with at least 50 students who will have the opportunity to earn an Associate’s Degree by the time they graduate high school.
“Eventually we’re hoping to become a full medical high school so that everyone from across Austin will be able to come take part in what we have going on here,” said Henry.
There is a lot of room to grow. Last year’s student enrollment was about 850 in a building that can hold 1,600 students. LBJ shares a campus with the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, which could eventually be relocated to Eastside Memorial High School if the $1 billion bond passes.
That would leave even more space for the LBJ medical program. Trustee Dr. Ted Gordon says he fully supports it, but is not convinced it will be enough on its own to double enrollment and would like to see more rigorous academics offered.
“I’m very concerned LBJ will be underpopulated even with the career launch if we do not put something else there as well that attract students,” said Dr. Gordon.
Henry says the program is already drawing students in from the suburbs including Pflugerville, Round Rock and Manor, and hopes that in five years 300 students will be part of the program.
KXAN met five students — three from Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy and two from Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy — who will be attending the program as freshmen in the upcoming school year.
Joanna Osorio, 14, wants to be a registered nurse or an emergency room doctor.
“My mom said when I was little I used to play with doctor toys,” said Osoriol who is on track to be the first in her family to go to college.
La’Shanti Maxwell, 14, says after seeing her aunt get an ultrasound, she wanted to be an ultrasound technician. It was her middle school principal who told her about the new program at LBJ.
“I was lucky. It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” said Maxwell. Some students like Joaquin Mata, 14, are following in their family’s footsteps. His older brother was one of the first students to earn their associate’s degree at LBJ when it launched it’s early college high school several years ago.
“Thank you for giving us this great opportunity,” said Osorio. “I think everybody would agree, we don’t have a lot of opportunities.”
They are all thankful for the chance to knock out two years worth of college credit by the time they graduate high school — for free.
The program is made possible through state grants, and partnerships with Austin Community College and Seton who will have mentors guiding students and teachers.