As a ninth-grader, Michelle Blair of Crofton has plenty of time to figure out what career to pursue. Yet, while taking classes in Anne Arundel County's BioMedical Allied Health magnet program at Glen Burnie High School, she's already considering a possible career in medicine.

And though she might not follow in the footsteps of her mother, Diane, who is a nurse, Michelle says, "I am hoping this program will help me narrow [my choices] down. It's given me the experience to see what I like and what I do not like."

Michelle is among dozens of students from across the county who are getting a firsthand look at the medical field courtesy of the magnet program, which launched this year and was showcased Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.

The event featured demonstrations and information sessions led by students, teachers and community leaders. The program allows for a medical component to be shared in each classroom. Students have toured medical facilities, and medical professionals have supplied equipment and have served as classroom speakers and mentors to students.

School officials say that after graduating from Glen Burnie High, students who have participated in the program can enter the health care workforce directly or continue their studies in college.

Diane Blair says she wishes she had had such a program in high school, and added that her daughter chose the health program over a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program at South River High, which is in her district.

"Her personality is more in line with the BMAH program; the whole experience has been really positive for her," Diane Blair said.

Glen Burnie freshman Jillian Sheffield said she has learned much this year about obesity.

"I learned that one-third of the United States is obese, and it's gone up rapidly since the 1980s," she said. "It's a big epidemic, and people need to start taking care of themselves."

During an information session Monday, BMAH students taught the names of body parts in Spanish by playing the game "Simon Says."

"At their age, I had no idea what I wanted to do; we've got ninth-graders that actually want to pursue a career in a health area. That's amazing," said BMAH instructor Nylca VanDillen, who led the body parts class.

"As a school system, it's in our best interest to provide these kids with the tools to do that," VanDillen said. "The hardest thing to do is to get a teenager to be focused, interested and connected. We already have them like that."

Glen Burnie Principal Vickie Plitt says the influx of students from nearly every other high school in the county has been a welcome addition to her school.

"They get the opportunity to be very analytical thinkers," she said. "They are presented with a hands-on education, which we try to do in all of our classrooms, but the BMAH program really focuses on giving them real-world experience."

It was the second time in November that the school system had highlighted one of its magnet programs. Earlier it staged an information session about its Performing and Visual Arts program for high schools.

Said Anne Arundel school board President Patricia Nalley: "It's extremely significant, not only for this community but for the whole community. There are students from 10 different high schools who have chosen, as they've said, to leave their friends, to leave their schools, and to gather with groups that are focused and very interested in being professionals in the medical field."

Glen Burnie freshman Jazmine Jackson said her classes have learned much about depression — in particular, that many people who suffer from it cannot afford to seek help.

"So we try to find a way or create a public policy to help people to be able to go to psychiatrists at a low cost if they can't afford it," Jazmine said.

She said she hopes to work in the pediatric oncology field and that an understanding of depression could be of benefit.

"I'm sure all of my patients are going to be really sad, considering what they're in the hospital for," Jazmine said. "Maybe depression was something good that I went over. I hope that I am going to be able to make my patients happy in their state of condition."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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