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Public school, private industry partner for student success

A Gwinnett County education program is converging with business interests as a way to give students immediate work skills or prepare them for higher education.

Shiloh High School cut the ribbon on its mock pharmacy lab Thursday. With assistance from the CVS Pharmacy chain, the new lab will provide students enrolled in the school’s Wellness Health and Education Academy with hands-on training.

Students will learn to receive prescription orders, process orders, confirm medical coverage and fill prescriptions. Through the pharmacy tech program, students can earn college credits, and graduates are eligible to test for the Pharmacy Technician Certification with the GaPTCB-Georgia Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.

“My mom is a nurse practitioner and I’ve always wanted to do something in the medical field,” said senior Mark Everette. “This is giving me a good head start on my future.”

The Snellville school is the second in the nation and the only one in the southeast to provide students with processes and practices of a real pharmacy, said Michael Romesburg with CVS Workforce Initiatives.

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“We normally set up a partnership at technical schools and high schools where students come in (to a pharmacy) for a non-paid externships,” he said. “It’s a recruiting tool to allow the potential employees to learn our systems and to let us see them in action.”

When Romesburg met Dr. Krystal Tomlin, Gwinnett County healthcare science cluster coach, at a conference for future health professionals, she inquired about internship programs. But Romesburg asked if she’d be interested in going one better — putting the pharmacy in the school.

“The (U.S.) Department of Education already had the curriculum in place,” Tomlin said. “We just needed to find a way to make it happen.”

In an already over-crowded school, space was precious. An abandoned locker room used for storage was transformed.

“It’s amazing that so much came from a simple, ‘Hello my name is,’” said Tomlin.

Now 25 students can graduate high school and begin working in a growing field. Or those that have higher aspirations such as medical school will receive the groundwork to become pharmacists, nurses or doctors.

As an academy, teaching practical skills is why Shiloh exists.

“One of our main goals is to prepare students for the real world,” said principal, Danyel Dollard. “The four academies allow them to focus on specific areas of concentration while they’re still in high school.”

That fact that they can earn a living wage while furthering their education was quite appealing to students handing out Smarties in pill bottles.

Classmate Jennifer Lopez said she plans to eventually enroll in Emory Medical School with her eye toward becoming a doctor.

The in-school pharmacy also helps students get past a barrier.

“With (federal)laws and legal issues, we can’t have high school students in the hospital pharmacy,” said Susan R. Powell, a nurse and professional development specialist at Gwinnett Medical Center

“This type of set-up is perfect for us because we’ll have a pool of qualified pharmacy techs right from the area.”

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