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Kofa's Ramirez uses Med-Start program to alter career path

Kofa High School senior Elexia Ramirez has long aspired to serve the Yuma community in the health field. Until this summer, she had no idea exactly what that would entail.

Ramirez, along with several other Yuma Union High School District students including three others from Kofa, attended the University of Arizona’s Med-Start Health Careers Program. The five-week program for Arizona high school juniors includes college courses, presentations, lectures, and tours of medical facilities across the state. Students also live on the Tucson campus while enrolled.

For Ramirez, Med-Start was somewhat of an awakening. She learned about the university’s public health major, and aligned her goals accordingly.

“One of the things we talked about in the Med-Start program was serving the underserved,” Ramirez said. “Within public health, majoring in that and studying that, I can bring it back to my community. There are several aspects within my community that need help, so just the thought of being able to do something helping others, especially within my community, is something that I want to strive for.”Elexia Ramirez

Prior to high school, striving for college wasn’t something on Ramirez’s radar, more or less her immediate future. She has five siblings, including a sister who is a freshman at Kofa, and has long been focused on family. A year from now, though, she intends to be the first person in her family to attend college. Taking part in Med-Start, where she was presented with the Du Val Award for excellence in the program, helped her realize her goals could soon be reality.

“It made me feel so privileged because coming from this area and my family background, I never thought of college as an opportunity for myself,” Ramirez said. “So, just being there and having the experience, I was so overwhelmed with emotion and I was very content to be there. It was an amazing opportunity and an amazing experience.

“My family got to see me going into registration for the college dorms and my parents cried. They told me they wish they had that experience and they wish they got that chance and that opportunity, but for them to see me do something like that, even if it was just a summer program, it was big for me and my family. And I had never been away from my family.”

According to Ramirez, being away from her family proved nearly as challenging as taking four college courses over five weeks. Still, if anyone could do it, she likely could.

“Elexia is an amazing young lady,” said Kofa guidance counselor Carmen Munoz, who helped Ramirez apply for the program last year. 

Ramirez said she intends to attend UA as a freshman next year, and her involvement in Med-Start will allow her to mentor future high school students as well.

The Med-Start program, sponsored by the University of Arizona Health Sciences-Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Arizona-Area Health Education Centers, was created in 1969 to help improve healthcare in rural, reservation, and economically disadvantaged areas through the recruitment and training of students from these regions. Med-Start helps young people prepare for their future in the health professions by exploring career opportunities and providing college level coursework in English and science.

Eric Patten
epatten@yumaunion.org