Hoping to engage students in career possibilities beyond the oilfield, Ector County Independent School District, Odessa College and health institutions in Odessa announced a partnership called ACCESS@ECISD.

Initially, the partnership is meant to connect students with possible careers in health care and introduce them to healthy lifestyles that can also impact their families.

In collaboration with the Odessa Chamber of Commerce and Education Foundation, Ravi Shakamuri, CEO of Star Tech Group, said ACCESS also will include the energy, manufacturing service and nonprofit sectors.

The announcement was made Friday at Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School. Officials from ECISD, Odessa College, Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Medical Center were on hand.

ORMC will partner with Nimitz and Crockett middle schools; Medical Center will partner with Bonham and Bowie middle schools; and Texas Tech University Family Practice will partner with Wilson & Young and Ector Middle School.

The initiative includes an online and on-site component where students will be able to talk to medical professionals and ask them questions online.

“Engagement and involvement of the students from the elementary to middle school and high school drops all the way from 75 percent to 34 percent,” Shakamuri said. “If the students are not engaged, the teachers cannot teach. We have good teachers. The only way to engage them (students) is to give them something that makes sense to them.”

Officials said every campus has a champion for the initiative and Welton Blaylock, dance director at Wilson & Young, serves in that capacity for the campus. He said it is supposed to start in the fall.

“To me, the benefit for the kids is actually having live bodies that are actually in those health fields to prepare them. You can ask them questions where it’s not just on paper, but they can actually see that person, make that connection and then build on that trust within them,” Blaylock said.

During the news conference, Shakamuri said middle school students will be able to shadow people in the medical field, and in high school, internships would be possible.

Shakamuri said he has been in Odessa for 22 years and seen four booms and four busts. When the booms occur, the money flows in and when the busts happen, the money moves out.

“It is important for the students to have the ability to learn continuously and have fun doing that and able to understand what opportunities are right here in West Texas,” Shakamuri said.