Contact: Thomas Hottman
Brezy Brenier-Drake knows she wants to help premature babies. Her goal: Go to medical school to become a neonatologist.
"I like babies and I don't want to work with toddlers," the 17-year-old Mazama high school senior said. "I prefer to work with the preemies so then I can help them grow up and stay alive."
When she receives her high school diploma Sunday, she will have also completed the work to get a certified nursing assistant license, or CNA. Once she passes the boards—the state certifying exams—she'll have the opportunity to get a job in the health field as she attends college and medical school.
"I'm definitely ahead of most people," Brenier-Drake said. "I feel like it will help me. Especially with getting my CNA license. Then I can work at the hospital and keep progressing and working in the medical field. I get more experience while I'm going to school so I know what to expect."
How did Brenier-Drake do this? She completed the health occupations program at Mazama and Klamath Community College.
INFLUENCED BY FAMILY
You could say practicing medicine is in her blood. Her mother, Kris Drake-Holbrook, is a registered nurse and her step-mother, Shaleen Drake-Holbrook is a licensed practical nurse. When she was young, Brenier-Drake went to work with her mom and volunteered at Plum Ridge rehabilitation and longterm care center. She knows she wants to pursue medicine.
Brenier-Drake started down the CNA road her freshman year, when she took introduction to health occupations. It's a prerequisite for the other classes in the CNA program.
Her junior year, she took Health Occupations I, which is a year-long course at Mazama. It covers the same curriculum as Medical Terminology I and II at Klamath Community College and students earn six college credits while taking the course at their high school.
Steve Siders teaches that course at Mazama and Henley high schools and via video to Lost River, Bonanza and Chiloquin high schools. Most of the course is in the classroom learning the terminology. But the students also go to hospitals to shadow medical professionals in the field.
"It's an opportunity to see a variety of departments of health careers," Siders said.
Because of Brenier-Drake's interest in caring for babies, she visited the birthing center at Sky Lakes Medical Center.
"It was very interesting," she said. "I got to see three births and I got to see the difference between a premature baby and full-term baby."
Even though the first health occupations course is taught at the high schools, Marilyn Culp, health sciences instructor at KCC, said it's no less difficult than it would be at the college. They're held to the same standard.
"It's not just because you're sitting in class in high school that you get that," she said. "You have to meet the rigor of the program."
HEADING TOWARD A CNA
This year Brenier-Drake took Health Occupations II, again a year-long course. This one she took at KCC with other students from the Klamath County School District. Because there is only one class, she had to apply to get into it.
"These students are motivated," Culp said. "They already have their direction in which they're planning to go. It makes it easy to teach."
Health Occupations II covered the same information as Nursing Assistant Training, usually a semester-long course at KCC. Culp said KCC extends the course to a full year for high school students and students earn seven college credits.
Health Occupations II spends one semester in the classroom and one semester getting real-world experience at Plum Ridge and Sky Lakes. Brenier-Drake learned skills like how to help patients get in and out of bed, get dressed, eat and brush their teeth.
"I like helping the patients," she said. "It makes me feel like I'm actually helping them. They get to go do what they want to do. We try to make them be as independent as possible"
"They are learning very practical skills, hands-on skills they can apply and use," Siders said. "Some students will struggle in high school, taking a lot of classes and don't see the relevance all the time. This is very much applied. They gain those practical skills that transition to the fact that, 'I'm learning this stuff, I see how it applies, now I need more education.' "
Earning her CNA license is just one step in Brenier-Drake's plan. She still has college at Oregon Tech, medical school, residency and specializing before she becomes a neonatologist.
"Fourteen years to go," she said. "I was surprised I could get my CNA license in high school. I thought I would have to just take health classes to be able to get myself ready for college. But the health occupations classes really helped me to be prepared for college."
"Being a CNA is not her ultimate goal but certainly is going to help her on that journey to the next level," Siders said.
The CNA program is aimed at students wanting to get into the health field. It's for students who want to work in medical billing, be a CNA, registered nurse, physician assistant or doctor.
"It opens many doors for them," Culp said.
"At 18 years of age a student can get out and go work in the health care field," Siders said. "Sometimes kids have to just try and make ends meet with working at a fast food restaurant. By doing this, they can be working in a health career field."
H&N PHOTO BY SAMANTHA TIPLER Brezy Bernier-Drake, right, earned her certified nursing assistant certification through the health occupations program at Mazama High School and Klamath Community College. Marilyn Culp, left, was her instructor at KCC.
H&N PHOTO BY SAMANTHA TIPLER Mazama High School health occupations student Brezy Bernier-Drake practices making a bed for a patient at Klamath Community College.
H&N PHOTO BY SAMANTHA TIPLER Brezy Bernier-Drake practices making a bed for a patient in the health occupations lab at Klamath Community College. Brezy is jump-starting on her goal to become a neonatologist by earning her certified nursing assistant certification at KCC at the same time she earns her high school diploma at Mazama.