SUN PATH Program Improves Lives While Strengthening Health Care

Just a few years ago, neither Victor Medina nor Jordan Simms ever imagined that they would someday work in the health
care field. In fact, neither of them had finished high school. Fast forward to the present. Now they both have earned their
GEDs, as well as certificates to work in the rapidly growing health care profession. Most importantly, Medina and Simms
have both landed jobs. They are among the more than 300 participants who’ve landed a job after completing a SUN PATH program. SUN PATH stands for the New Mexico Skill UP Network: Pathway Acceleration in Technology & Health Care.

Additionally, 647 program participants received a wage
increase. Santa Fe Community College is the lead institution for the SUN PATH Consortium, a statewide collaboration to develop and expand health care career pathways. The effort is funded by a $15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant. Kristen Krell serves as the director of the consortium, which includes 11 community colleges, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, the New Mexico Higher Education Department, and more than 200 health care employer partners.

At the core of the SUN PATH program is the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program. I-BEST pairs two instructors in the classroom, one to teach professional and technical content for the health care programs and the other to teach basic skills in reading, writing and math. Through this model, students can simultaneously earn a GED while jumping into the course content. Some students attend supplemental classes or tutoring. This all leads to accelerating student success and moving participants rapidly into good-paying jobs. Simms, 19, works as an Advanced Patient Care.
Photo: Victor Medina

Technologist in Emergency Services at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. “I love my job. It’s a fun place. You never, ever stop learning and there’s never a dull moment in the E.R.,” Simms said. “I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t gotten into the program.”

Due to family circumstances, she was home-schooled. “I just could not learn online. I was living in a rural community and
tutoring just wasn’t an option. I got really depressed and felt so bad that I couldn’t even get a GED.” She found the opportunity to enroll in SUN PATH and is grateful she did.

“My teacher Leslie Foust sparked my love of health care, so much so that someday I’d like to teach it,” Simms added.

Through SUN PATH, Simms not only earned a GED, but also a Certificate in Emergency Medical Technician – Basic. She, along with others in her class, went on to pass the National Registry EMT licensure exam. Sahaj Khalsa, program director of the college’s Emergency Medical Services Institute, notes that SUN PATH students had a 100 percent success rate.
By comparison, he said the state average is a 68 percent success rate and the national averageis 67 percent. “(I-BEST instructor) Kerry Bank and (EMT teacher) Leslie Foust have done an excellent job in developing a model that truly works,” Khalsa said.

“It’s really an exciting dynamic to work with another instructor to integrate subject matter,” Bank explained. “For example,
to instruct English 109 in a class of EMT students I will have the students research ambulance businesses or write about
personal health experiences. They gain writing skills and learn how to research and how to compare and contrast options. Math comes into play when students are learning how to calculate pre-measured medicine doses – information they’ll need for the license exams. We find that students relate to material presented and explained this way. And we have higher retention rates than other programs.”


■ $15 Million U.S. Dept of Labor Grant

■ 11 New Mexico Community Colleges

■ 200+ Health Care Employer Partners

■ 300 Student Participants Landed a Job

■ 647 Student Participants Got a Raise

■ 100 Percent Success Rate Passing the National EMT Licensure Exam


One of the growing areas in health care is for community health workers. Through SUN PATH, Victor Medina earned a
GED, a Home Health Aid Certificate and a Community Health
Care Worker Certificate. He now works as a Community
Health Care/Diabetes educator at La Familia Medical Center.
He is often the patient’s first contact at the clinic and checks
their vital signs. He spends time talking with them (in Spanish
or English) and listening to their concerns. “The most
interesting part is being a member of a health care team.
You get to know the patients and help them navigate their
health care. It feels good,” he said.
As a teen, Medina had dropped out of high school, thinking he’d go right to work. “I found work, but at minimum wage, and I was working two jobs. Now I work regular hours and earn better wages. It means a lot to me, since I’m a father. The program has helped me become a better father.” He hopes his example will inspire his daughter to go to college.
Both Simms and Medina plan to continue their studies to advance their careers. SUN PATH is designed to help participants gain skills and add credentials to move forward in their professions.

Photo: Jordan Simms


Learn more: R. Thaddeaus Lech, New Mexico Workforce
Development Career Coach, 505-428-1748
Max Coscia, SUN PATH Coordinator, 505-428-1137