Cora Hjelmberg began her health care career and earning potential early by taking college courses before she even graduated from high school.
The Elkhorn High School senior earned a Gateway Technical College Nursing Assistant technical diploma as a junior and parlayed that into a solid-paying job at an area hospital and a foundation for her future career.
“I like my job,” says Cora. “I like that I’m able to help people. I like being that person that they can call and I can help them. If they want to talk, I am there to listen.”
Cora says she initially took the college coursework because she has a goal of entering the health care field as neonatologist and thought the training and work would give her a great first-hand look at health care.
“I like helping people, and that pushed me to at least try it to see if I liked it,” she says. “I liked it a lot, so I took my state tests, passed them, and I am where I am now. I’m happy.”
She also thought it would be good to take this look while she’s in high school – rather than finding out in college or later in life she might not like the career field.
“I think it’s better to know now than to explore a career in college and then you don’t like it,” says Cora. “I know people who are in their 40s and still don’t know where they want to go.”
Cora was in Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program, part of the statewide School-To-Work initiative designed for high school students who want hands-on learning in key career areas at a worksite coupled with classroom instruction.
Her classroom instruction was part of a contract agreement between Gateway and her high school. In this agreement, the student earns college and high school credit simultaneously, and does not have to pay the college tuition fees.
“This allows me to do what I want to do and to make money to pay for my college education to pursue what I want to do for a career for my life.”
- Cora Hjelmberg
She enters a career field short of trained and certified workers, and found work after she passed her state tests. Gateway offers Nursing Assistant training to high-schoolers in all three of the counties it serves.
Cora says the Gateway courses prepared her well for the state exams. “All the hands-on parts that were taught to us were spot-on. They helped us to know how to do all the procedures on the test,” she says.
“Our instructors had personal experiences that they brought to the classroom. They told us what to do, what went well and what to avoid. If we needed any kind of help, they were there to help us and showed us the proper way to do things.”
Cora also took an initial Gateway medical terminology course at her high school as a transcripted credit course. These courses are taught by Gateway-certified high school teachers, and students earn college as well as high school credit.
Cora says earning the technical diploma benefits her in many ways. It allows her to earn college credit for free, get a peek at her future career, gain the skills to a job that pays more than many typical jobs high-schoolers have and gives her the confidence and training to work with others in a health care setting.
“This allows me to do what I want to do and to make money to pay for my college education to pursue what I want to do for a career for my life,” she says. “It’s nice.”