- Southwest Middle School
Medical-focused Early College celebrates opening
Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences celebrates grand opening
A vision that has been several years in the making is reality now with the official opening of the Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences.
Representatives from Gaston County Schools and Gaston College came together on Tuesday, September 28 for a ribbon-cutting and open house celebration. They joined with partner organizations Belmont Abbey College and CaroMont Health to celebrate the county’s newest high school that boasts a healthcare focus.
“The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences is the first step for our students to embark on a career journey into the medical field,” said principal Beverley Bowman. “Because of our partnership with Gaston College, Belmont Abbey College, and CaroMont Health, we are able to offer a specialized high school program to help meet the growing demand for people to work in the healthcare industry. This is an exciting time for Gaston County Schools and the Gaston County community.”
A highlight during the ceremony was the unveiling of the school mascot and colors. After considering several options and receiving input from students and staff, the school selected red and purple as its colors and the phoenix as its mascot.
“The phoenix is a bird-like creature from Greek mythology that is said to have the ability to regenerate and rise from the ashes of its predecessor,” explained Bowman. “As the phoenix represents a new birth, we are experiencing a new beginning for our school to rise up and become a model high school in the region and in the state.”
Bowman added, “As we were going through the design process for the mascot logo, someone said our phoenix graphic, with the bird’s outstretched wings, brings to mind the caduceus, which is the symbol associated with healthcare and medical practice. So, I think we have chosen an appropriate mascot for our new school.”
In addition to Bowman, the program featured remarks from Dr. Jeff Booker, superintendent of Gaston County Schools, and Dr. John Hauser, president of Gaston College. Special guests included members of the Gaston County Board of Education and Gaston College Board of Trustees; school district and college administrators; Dr. Bill Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College; Chris Peek, president and CEO of CaroMont Health; Angie Saunders of the Gaston Business Association; and Josh Allen, principal of the Gaston Early College High School.
“All of the preparation, all of the time and energy, and all of the work that has gone into this new school is about making sure that we have the workforce available for the expanding healthcare industry in Gaston County,” said Booker. “All you have to do is drive by the site on Interstate 85 in Belmont to see the new hospital being built by CaroMont Health. Knowing that there will be a second hospital in our community is a sign of growth. It also is an indication that we will need people to work there.”
Booker added, “This school is a game-changer for our community. The goal is to have our students working in the new hospital, and through the Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences, our students will receive the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to be the next generation of healthcare professionals for this community.”
Three students, Andre Gaddy, Sadie Morton, and Chandandeep Chahil, led the Pledge of Allegiance. The “perspectives” portion of the program featured remarks from student Emma Burger, parent Dr. John Burger, and teacher Lisa Neisler. The students were involved with the unveiling of the school mascot, and all program participants were part of the ribbon cutting.
Students are chosen to attend the school through an application/lottery process that is conducted each spring. Last year, students entering the ninth and tenth grades were able to apply. As the school grows, it will have students in grades 9-12.
The ceremony was recorded, and it will air the week of October 11-17 on Spectrum Cable Channel 21 (the Education Station for Gaston County Schools and Gaston College) at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. The video also will be available on the Gaston County Schools website and YouTube channel.
▪ About the Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences (GECMS) opened in August 2021 on the Gaston College campus in Dallas. It is an innovative, healthcare-focused high school that is designed especially for students interested in the medical field.
The new high school is a collaborative effort for Gaston County Schools, Gaston College, Belmont Abbey College, and CaroMont Health, and it is intended to develop a workforce to meet the growing demand for healthcare professionals in Gaston County.
Students are able to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree from Gaston College in preparation for a career in healthcare. Academics focus on biotechnology, health information technology, human services technology, and nursing.
In addition to high school and college-level coursework, students participate in job shadowing experiences and gain hands-on learning in real-world settings through CaroMont Health, conduct undergraduate research, and prepare themselves for post-secondary education and/or going directly into the workforce.
Further, students can take advantage of many resources available through Gaston College that will enhance their academic experience and engage them in the college campus setting. Students may decide to transfer to Belmont Abbey College where they can obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology, biochemistry, psychology, social work, or related areas.
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences is the second Early College program for Gaston County Schools and Gaston College. It is housed in the Comer Engineering Technologies Building and operates separately from the Gaston Early College High School, which opened in 2012 and is located in the Lena Sue Beam Building.
GECMS follows the “cooperative innovative high school” model. Typically, a cooperative innovative high school is a smaller school located on a community college or university campus. It targets first-generation college students as well as students who would benefit from accelerated learning in a college environment.
The new Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences provides students with a pathway to obtain the education, knowledge, experience, and connections necessary for a successful career in healthcare right here in Gaston County.
Click here for the program.