FACES for the Future Coalition
The Importance of FACES for the Future Programs in California’s Rural Communities
With so much attention given to the challenges faced by young people in our nation’s cities, it can be easy to overlook the needs of students in rural America. If we examine FACES for the Future – Imperial Valley as an example, it becomes clear why continued investment in rural students interested in health careers is a necessity for California.
Imperial Valley is confronted with unemployment rates hovering at 30% and students have difficulty in accessing resources given geography. The FACES for the Future program in El Centro works with seven high schools, four of which have a College Going Rate of less than 20% (the remaining three high schools have a College Going Rate of 20-50%). Combined with a high school drop out rate for Latinos of 13.1% and an overall poverty rate for Imperial Valley’s population of 22.8%, students face an uphill climb toward success.
But basic education barriers are not the only challenges that FACES for the Future – Imperial Valley addresses. Rural California is facing a “perfect storm” of health workforce shortages and an aging population. According to recent census data, Imperial Valley will see a 150-199.9% increase in its elderly population aged 60 and over between 1990 – 2020, resulting in high retirement rates for its current health workforce and an increased need for health care services overall. And yet, recruitment and retention of a rural health workforce remains difficult. From primary care physicians to dentists to pharmacists, California is struggling to find heath care professionals willing to serve its rural communities even though CA rural hospitals care for nearly 3.5 million people.
By preparing rural high school students to move up the health workforce pipeline, the FACES for the Future program model offers comprehensive solutions to both the problem of educating young people who need exposure to viable career options, and that of developing a culturally competent health workforce more inclined to work and live in rural areas.
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