Deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life is a daunting challenge.
Throw in a few obstacles, such as being a teen-age parent or the first in your family to go to college, and that difficulty becomes even more seemingly impossible.
That's where Amarillo College is hoping to help.
On Monday, more than 200 students from Palo Duro High School toured AC's West Campus for the third annual Health Sciences Showcase. It was an opportunity for the college to highlight what it has to offer to PD students interested in careers in the health sciences sector.
Students broke into smaller groups to tour the campus and learn firsthand what it means to be a dental hygienist, occupational therapist, licensed vocational nurse or emergency medical services professional.
They could ask Becky Byrd questions about AC's respiratory care department or Shawna Lopez about the college's pharmacy technology program.
Byrd, an instructor, said one thing that is important about an opportunity to talk to kids is a chance to dispel a myth. She said that when people see someone in scrubs, they immediately think that person is a nurse, but they could be a surgical technician or a physical therapist. People don't realize how many different occupations are at work every day trying to help people feel better.
She talked to some of the students about real-world reasons to join her in the health sciences workforce. She showed them how quickly they can start making money in their desired profession, and she discussed the future.
"People are going to continue being sick, and we are always going to need to take care of people, especially as our population continues to age," Byrd said.
She said she is thankful that schools throughout the area want to visit AC and show their students potential opportunities.
Byrd said that about 90 percent of respiratory therapists in Amarillo graduated from Amarillo College's respiratory care program.
"It's nice to give these students more options after graduation," she said.
Lopez talked about what skills a future pharmacy technician would need, courses incoming freshmen would be taking and job placement after graduating.
The Showcase "is super fun for the students," said Lopez, the director of the pharmacy technology program at AC. "They need to see it and not just hear about it. It's great what they're exposed to.
"Our goal is to teach them a marketable skill to get a job."
The Showcase was for Palo Duro students in grades 9-12, but those soon-to-become seniors are additionally eligible to be paired with mentors through an extension of the initiative called the Helping Heroes Mentorship program, according to an AC news release. Volunteers are recruited primarily, although not exclusively, from the professional ranks at Baptist St. Anthony’s Health Care System and Northwest Texas Hospital to guide and encourage the students with whom they are matched.
Currently there are 21 Palo Duro students being served by 12 Helping Heroes mentors.
One of those mentors is Ema Mowoe, an RN support coordinator at BSA. This is her second student she has mentored. She said it's a way she can answer any of her student's questions and help her try to figure out her future.
Phyllis Pastwa, an instructor of nursing at AC, is the chief architect of the Showcase. She said the event is only offered, right now, to PD students, but she hopes one day to offer it to all the schools in the Amarillo Independent School District.
Pastwa said she had a personal connection to Palo Duro High School. She said she wanted to help out PD students because she had numerous friends that went to school there and she saw some of them getting pregnant and having children.
"I saw that cycle start," Pastwa said, and she wanted to help the next group of PD students avoid perhaps failing to fully reach their potential.
"Maybe it (the Showcase) can open up doors to other programs that they didn't know about that could afford them brighter futures and brighter careers," Pastwa said.