Caroline Gabica slid activated hand warmers into her boots, picked up a bag of footballs and followed the coach out onto the field during the playoff game between Carson and Reed high schools in November. Soon Gabica, manager for the Carson High School Senators football team, was back on the sidelines, taping up the injured fingers of a player who got tangled up with another player’s face mask.
Gabica, a second-year student in Carson High School’s CTE sports medicine coursework, said the program helped her to find her way in a new school after transferring to Carson.
“I had just transferred schools and didn’t know anyone,” she said. “Coach Roman really focuses on family. Everyone is a brother, they all treat each other like that and they took me in like a sister.”
CTE courses were new to Gabica, as they were not offered at Bishop Manogue. She said she took her first sports medicine class after securing the manager position on the football team last year.
“I learned I loved it,” she said. “I just didn’t know it until that moment.”
Gabica’s true passion, however, is baseball, and she manages the Carson High baseball and basketball teams as well. She has applied for her dream school, Boston University, and one day hopes to be a physician’s assistant for her favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.
Adam Hunsaker, athletic trainer for Carson High School, said the CTE programs offer good opportunities for students to be put into a hands-on learning environment and gaining real occupational knowledge.
“Caroline is in the training room and she sees what it’s like to be an athletic trainer,” Hunsaker said. “She’s taping injuries, performing evaluations and doing paperwork. She’s getting a real world look at the responsibilities and demands of a career in athletic training.”
Frank Sakelarios has been teaching sports medicine programs for 15 years, 13 of those at Carson High also while serving as the athletic trainer prior to Hunsaker. Sakelarios said students should take advantage of CTE classes as a means to explore college and career options.
“These classes prepare students for professional careers and for rigorous and competitive college programs,” Sakelarios said. “The classes also prepare students to be a well-educated and dependable workforce.”
He would know. His daughter, Megan Sakelarios, attended Carson High and participated in the sports medicine program. Currently a community health science major with an emphasis in kinesiology at the University of Nevada, Reno, she said she is glad she took the CTE courses in high school because they were taught differently than a core class like math or English, and this different teaching style allowed her to learn how to take notes at the pace of the teachers’ lecture and how to know which notes to take as far as judging what was important information or not.
“The classes definitely prepared me for college and the field I am pursuing,” she said. “What I learned in high school is still useful to me today. The CTE courses also showed me how much study time I needed for a college level class, and showed me it takes hard work and dedication as well as time commitment to succeed in the classes.”
Megan Sakelarios hopes to become a physical therapist or follow in her dad’s footsteps and become an athletic trainer. She begins emergency medical technician course work next semester and plans to one day become an EMT-advanced or a paramedic.
Not all CTE students follow the path they set for themselves in high school, nor is it always a straight path. Briana Neben, Miss Carson City and a Carson High grad currently studying social work at the University of Nevada, Reno, shared Gabica’s and Megan Sakalerios’ paths during her time at Carson High.
“I took sports medicine my sophomore year and got a 100 percent on my first test,” she said. “Then I started spending more time in the training room and fell in love with it. During my senior year, it was just part of my life and my school work; it was just what I did.”
Neben was among the first students to join the school’s then-fledgling HOSA program in 2011 and won a gold medal in the state competition and placed in the top 20 nationally.
“It was exciting to beat the Las Vegas schools at state,” she said. “They have full technical vocational schools where they have entire programs devoted to HOSA disciplines.”
Carson High School is unique in offering all six career clusters, or occupational groupings, including health science, agriculture and natural resources, business and marketing education, hospitality and tourism, information and media technologies, and skilled and technical sciences based on Gov. Sandoval’s Career and Technology Education goals for workforce and economic development. Washoe and Clark Counties have technical academies that specialize in specific fields within certain categories, but not in all of them.
But CTE provided more than career and college preparation for Neben. For her, the CTE program provided her with a community safety net.
“My family was dealing with domestic violence,” she said. “I lived in my car for the first half of my senior year. Those classes kept me going. If I didn’t have a home to go to after school, I worked another game or stayed in the training room.”
Neben received an athletic training internship at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., where she lived with her grandparents. She worked 10-12 hours a week in the training room and travelled around Arizona and into New Mexico with the football team.
“I realized that though I loved the medical side of my studies, the sports side wasn’t what I wanted,” she said.
Neben returned to Carson City and attended Western Nevada College, earning her associate’s degree. She attended classes at Truckee Meadows Community College and learned about the Disney College Program. She applied for the program and was one of only 400 people accepted to the Disneyland campus out of 60,000 applicants.
“I took a semester off and lived in Disney company sponsored housing and worked full time at Disneyland,” she said. “I chose to leave the program early because of family issues back home.”
Back in Nevada, Neben began attending the University of Nevada, Reno, pursuing a degree in social work, which she said would give her a wider variety of career options. Neben expects to graduate in spring 2018.
In early 2015, Neben was crowned Miss Carson City on a platform of Victims to Victories: It Starts with a Voice. At 22, she serves as the president of the board of Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, in Carson City.
Neben said she feels strongly that getting involved with CTE classes early in her high school career helped her with her development as both a person and a student preparing for college, and is often a guest speaker in Frank Sakelarios’ classes.
“I tell them about my accomplishments and you just know they are judging me, thinking this was all easy for me,” she said. “Then I tell them I lived in my car. Their jaws drop. CTE sports medicine became a home and a family to me.”
Meanwhile, Gabica is moving on to basketball season and preparing for the next HOSA competition in the spring. She said health science is a great career path and students have so many choices.
“I found more life lessons at a public high school than I did at a private school,” she said. “I didn’t need to go to the biggest school to find out who I was. The medical field is in need of people and we can’t do it without growing our research. It can all start with Carson High School and CTE.”