Profile of a CCISD Graduate, Part One

Profile of a CCISD Graduate, Part One
Posted on 05/18/2021
Kayla Nguyen

When Kayla Nguyen decided to spend her summers volunteering full-time at the hospital her mother worked at, she had no idea the impact it would have on her life.

“Before the pandemic, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston hosted a summer volunteer program for high school students,” Kayla said. “I decided to volunteer because I didn’t want to spend my summers being unproductive.”

With more than 500 volunteer hours there now, the position quickly turned into an amazing opportunity for her to gain real-world experience in a field she found interesting.

“I always knew I was interested in science and medicine from a young age and working at the VA gave me the opportunity to look at different careers that I could pursue in medicine,” Kayla said.

She would spend her time at the head nurse’s station checking in patients, filing paperwork, and shadowing doctors and physician assistants to learn more about what they do.

“I got to shadow in the operation room once a week, which not a lot of high school kids get the chance to do,” Kayla said. “One time I watched an open-heart surgery and got to see them stop and start the person’s heart. It was amazing.”

Another component she enjoyed was the opportunity to interact with people.

“I loved the personal connection you got to make with not only the people in the medical field, but also the veterans,” Kayla said. “Veterans are so interesting and not enough people listen to them and hear their stories. They just want to be heard and give such great advice.”

As patients sat in the waiting room, she took the opportunity to get to know them. Her family’s background also came up in conversation.

“It was funny because there were some Vietnam War veterans who tried talking to me in Vietnamese,” Kayla said while chuckling at some of their failed attempts. “My parents are also immigrants and really appreciate getting to be in this country, and the reason for that is our veterans. So, it just made me appreciate the experience more.” 

One of her most memorable exchanges happened with a veteran named James.

“We were talking about life and he asked me if I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up,” Kayla said. “I told him I didn’t know for sure yet and he said he hoped he’d get the opportunity to be one of my patients one day. He told me that I could do anything I set my mind to and gave me some great advice.”

This conversation stuck with Kayla and turned out to be one of the biggest factors that solidified her desire to pursue the pre-med track.

“I had such a great connection with him, and I think that as doctor I can meet and help more people like James,” Kayla said.

Working at the VA hospital was not the only opportunity Kayla has had to explore the medical field. Seniors at Clear Horizons Early College High School are required to complete a semester-long internship, so she decided to look into pediatric care at her dentist office.

“I love to work with kids because I grew up with a big extended family,” Kayla said. “I wanted to also see if I was interested in dentistry for a future career. I learned that I really liked the hands-on aspect of being in pediatrics.”

At Clear Horizons, students graduate with both their high school diploma and associate degree. Kayla jumped at the opportunity to get a head start with her future education goals.

“From the start, I knew I wanted to pursue higher education,” Kayla said. “If I could save time that’s always the best option since you can’t really buy time. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get ahead through Clear Horizons.”

As for her advice for younger students, she encourages them to ask the questions, get to know people, be genuine and make connections.

“I think everything is what you make it to be,” Kayla said. “If you decide something is right for you, that is great. But I also don’t think someone should close themselves off to the options, which are endless. It doesn’t hurt to try.”

Kayla is graduating Summa Cum Laude and will attend Baylor University in the fall. Her plans right now are to major in biology in hopes of pursuing pediatrics or orthopedics for medical school.

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