Southwest senior volunteers at BC Health Department

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Paj Chea Yang, 18, senior at Southwest High School, volunteers by doing clerical work at the Barry County Health Department for a dual-credit class. Yang plans to pursue a career in nursing. Kayla Monahan/

High school student completes 19 hours of college before graduating

Unlike most high school students, Paj Chea Yang, 18, has a clear career goal.

The senior at Southwest High School decided her freshman year that she wanted to be a nurse.

Her family was in an automobile accident in 2005, and Yang spent several months in the hospital, which sparked her interest in the medical field.

"I like being in the hospital," she said. "It's comfortable and calms me down. Someone there can help you, and they have the answers to what is wrong. I want to be the person with the answers someday."

In addition, Yang found comfort in seeing the nurses and doctors taking care of her family after the accident.

"Knowing that someone was taking care of my family really affected me as a child," Yang said.

Yang did her research and found out that she could take college classes and dual credit classes in her senior year of high school. One of her classes required volunteer hours.

Yang picked the Barry County Health Department to stay close to her career goals and to see the different sides of the medical field.

Yang asked if she could volunteer, and the department agreed to bring her on board.

"We always want to help students succeed with their education," said Roger Brock, Barry County Health Department administrator.

According to Brock, policies only allow Yang to work in certain areas.

"She desires to be in the medical environment," said Carol Landstad, registered nurse and public health programs coordinator. "This gives her an idea of public health nursing."

Yang's duties are mostly clerical filing and shredding, which Landstad said has helped since the Health Department is currently short on clerical staff.

Yang said she has learned how organized files and charts are and how important it is to file everything correctly.

"Files have to be precise or it could really affect someone's life," Yang said.

When not volunteering or attending high school or college, Yang is also working. She pays for her own car insurance and her college classes. Yang said she wants a taste of adult life to show her family that she is no longer the baby of the family, but someone who is independent.

"When I go out on my own, I can say I've got this," Yang said. "I've done my research. It will give my parents a since of security that I'll be fine in the world. It's the best present I can give them."

When Yang graduates in May, she will have earned 19 hours of college credits.

She hopes to get into the fast track nursing program at Crowder College, then transfer to Truman University, and eventually attend medical school.

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