Local students got made a recent visit across the state line to Tennessee to learn more about what their future might look like in the health care industry, as well as to make a special delivery of a heavy donation. 

Cedartown Middle School students participated in a Community Service Project via the CMS SkillsUSA Chapter, and over an approximately a six-week period collected 90 pounds of aluminum pop-tabs for the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).

With all those pop-tabs collected, the CMS SkillsUSA Chapter had the opportunity to deliver those pop-tabs to the RMHC of Greater Chattanooga on Thursday, April 25. While in Chattanooga students toured the RMHC as coordinator, Michele Loyd walked them through “the House that Love Built” explaining their mission including some of their biggest needs as a charitable organization.

Students were also invited to the Life Force Helipad at Erlanger where Life Forces Calhoun 3 aircraft flew in for students to receive an up-close view of potential Healthcare Careers.

The flight nurse Susan Reeve, flight paramedic Ryan Sparks, and aircraft pilot David Barrs exchanged turns telling students about their role in Healthcare. Students learned what it took for each of them to earn their credentials and what the entire flight crew does to keep their credentials. Several students even had the opportunity to sit in the Life Force aircraft.

To complete CMS SkillsUSA Chapters trip to Chattanooga, students were invited to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger’s newest state-of-the-art facility and phase 1 of an even bigger project, the Kennedy Outpatient Center.

Erlanger Health Systems Executive Director of Development, Steven Wagner guided the group through a phenomenal tour. Before getting started, students heard about yet another Healthcare Career opportunity.

Child Life Specialist, “Maggie” intrigued students by telling them about her career. Child Life Specialists are unique to Children’s Hospitals and often times, actually get paid to play. Their role could be anything from comforting a sick or injured child to painting young patients’ fingernails.

The concept behind their career is to make the hospital feel less scary and more inviting. No, they do not exist in the adult spectrum.

Upon touring the Kennedy Outpatient Center at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, Steven Wagner shared a multiple thought processes behind the building. According to Wagner, “when kids visit this outpatient center, we want them to be able to connect with things they are familiar with here in Chattanooga."

One of Chattanooga’s original locomotives resides directly outside the doors thanks to one of Chattanooga’s local museums. Once inside the Kennedy Outpatient Center, Seth Wright, CMS SkillsUSA Chapter President, had the honors of starting a smaller replica of the same train for students and onlookers to admire it travel around a hang gliding “Looie the Lookout” (Chattanooga’s Minor League Baseball Team Mascot).

If you have ever visited Lookout Mountain, you have probably seen hang gliders, too. Moving up to the 2nd floor, students adored "Sally," a 1942 refurbished tow truck and discovered Chattanooga, Tennessee, is where the first tow truck was ever built.

On to the third floor, some students climbed into the cab of one of Chattanooga’s retired fire engines. Wagner explained how the fire engine was retired and lifted by crane and placed into the hospital during the build. The fire engine was designed so even children in wheelchairs could enjoy playing in it.

Students learned how the Erlanger Health Systems design team came up with their unique exam room layout all the way to placing mirrors in the exam rooms. Upon doctor’s request, mirrors were placed in each exam room with their smallest patients (toddlers) in mind, who love looking at themselves in a mirror. Before exiting the building there was one more must see area - a "secret garden" honoring Rock City.

With a wave of the hand, students were astonished to watch frosted glass turn clear while a door opened, inviting them to the "secret garden." The buildings architectural design mimics that of the Chattanooga Aquarium, triangular shaped in areas. Students were truly enlightened by multiple Healthcare Career possibilities awaiting them in their future.

CMS SkillsUSA is a new chapter encouraging students who have an interest in the Healthcare Career Pathway to explore in a multitude of opportunities. Mrs. Shannon Cofield is the CMS SkillsUSA Chapter Advisor.

In addition to this field trip, Cofield has taken CMS SkillsUSA Chapter members to tour Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Health Science Department, and Polk Medical Center.

She has hosted multiple guest speakers from the Polk County community in her classroom throughout the school year and consistently encourages her students to “think outside of the box”.

Cofield said that "there is so much more to healthcare outside of being a doctor or a nurse."

She pushes students to discover their gift and apply it in their everyday lives.

Cofield and 5 of her students attended the Georgia SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference last month at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. Of Cofield’s 5 students in attendance, they each brought back a Gold medal to Cedartown, and 2 of the 5 students brought back 2 Gold medals for a total of 7 Gold medals for the CMS SkillsUSA Chapter.

Recently the 2 students who won two medals were invited to attend the National SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference to be held during June in Louisville, Kentucky.

Cofield has been working diligently to attain sponsorship through the community to help cover the student’s portion of over $1000 combined. She remains optimistic yet has not had any success.

Cofield is grateful for Coosa Dental’s Dr. David Gandy for sponsoring her only male student who attended Georgia SLSC Seth Wright.

"Dr. Gandy’s sponsorship brought Seth’s room portion equivalent to those of the 4 females in our group," Cofield said.

It lifted a heavy burden off our CMS SkillsUSA Chapter and parents. As a new chapter, they are learning a lot, and implementing changes for next year. They have hosted multiple fundraisers with little success throughout the 2018-2019 school year.

"The world needs these young people, none of us are getting younger. We will all need Healthcare Professionals at some point in our lives," Cofield said. 

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