Grant funds help West-MEC students find a faster way forward


Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC)–a public career technical education district–helps students afford certification exams and other education expenses through grant funds provided by the BHHS Legacy Foundation.

When Donielle Winzeler first began teaching medical assisting at West-MEC’s Northeast Campus in 2015, it was the district’s only campus to offer medical assisting. The campus’s location in Deer Valley meant some students were traveling across the West Valley.

“I had students coming from Tolleson High School by city bus. It took them an hour each way to get here,” said Ms. Winzeler.

Transportation is only one of the challenges. The cost of uniforms, equipment, and certifications are obstacles to success faced by economically challenged students. Thanks to the foundation’s generosity, West-MEC students in medical assisting, pharmacy technician, dental assisting, and emergency medical technician (EMT) receive financial assistance.

“The BHHS Legacy Foundation’s assistance has given me the means to prepare myself to attend West-MEC with the proper equipment. Without it, I may not have been able to approach my training with such comfort and enthusiasm,” said physical therapy technician student D. Gonzalez.

The completion of any West-MEC program prepares students to sit for one or more certification exam.

“We want our students to have certifications because it shows employers they have knowledge, earns them higher pay working in the field, and makes their resumes stand out for those who want to do post-secondary education,” said Ms. Winzeler.

These tests, however, can be costly–both financially and in the time commitment needed to complete.

“For students who just graduated, $135 is a lot to come up with, especially for students considering college but still want to go out on an externship during the summer,” said Ms. Winzeler.

Students in Ms. Winzeler’s medical assisting program spend 160 hours during the month of June working as an extern at a doctor’s office to qualify for the Registered Medical Assistant certification. The money provided by the BHHS Legacy Grant help students earn their credential by removing the cost barrier.

“A lot of students just wouldn’t participate in an externship because they couldn’t afford it,” said Ms. Winzeler. “But we had more students test last year than ever before because of the BHHS Legacy Grant.”

West-MEC is a joint technical education public school district that focuses solely on innovative career and technical education (CTE) programs that prepare students to enter the workforce and pursue continuing education. West-MEC CTE programs provide students opportunities to earn college credit and industry credentials. West-MEC serves more than 38,000 students from 48 high schools, across 3,600 square miles in the northern and western cities of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. West-MEC now also offers adult education programs.