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Odessa Early College High School Expedites Associate Degrees

Odessa Career & Technical Early College High School in Ector County, Texas, allows students to earn a high school diploma and associate degree at the same time, allowing them to find work in technical fields quickly.

career technical education
(TNS) — Interest in health and safety has transformed Genesis Batie’s life and career path.

Batie, who recently graduated from Odessa College with a bachelor of applied arts and sciences in leadership, is now working for the Texas Department of Health Services as a sanitarian environmental specialist. She also took a degree in occupational safety and environmental technology.

“I go out and I inspect businesses to make sure that they’re following all the protocols and regulations that OSHA puts into place. And I make sure there are no hazards in the workplace, make sure all the foods ... are up to date to make sure everybody doesn’t get sick,” to help prevent food borne illnesses, Batie said.

The 21-year-old Odessa native has only been with the state health department’s Midland office for a short time, but she said it has been difficult because of COVID.

“We want to ensure that it’s OK, our workplaces are safe, and everything is all up to date. ... We really ... try to encourage the employees around us to follow your handwashing protocols, make sure you wear a mask. Of course, not everybody is going to want to wear a mask, but we try to teach the importance of wearing a mask because ... a lot of the diseases and things that people catch are mainly airborne. A lot of it can get into foods. It can cause people to get sick, and even can contaminate other areas around us, even apart from our food, like the utensils we eat with, the surfaces that we lay our food on. ... A little bit of everything (can) contribute to food borne illness, so it’s very important that you follow those protocols,” Batie said.

Acknowledging that it can make you paranoid, Batie said the health department’s job is to make sure everybody is following the rules.

“And we really do try to encourage them. We often go in to inspect; we try to let them know we’re there to work with them and (not) there to criticize the business or give any negative feedback. We’re there to help them sustain the best business they can and follow that into supporting their customers to keep the business up and running,” Batie added.

Along with visiting restaurants, she also will be going to schools and youth camps. Her territory will cover an area from around Crane to El Paso.

She is expected to take a state board exam at the end of January to become certified. As soon as she does that, she can travel all over the region.

“A lot of that falls back into play, apart from the food borne illnesses, just making sure the overall environment (is) free from hazards ...”

For example, if she was going to a childcare facility, she would make sure there were no cleaning supplies on the counter, or food that’s not stored properly, which could cause someone to get sick.

“We really try to make sure that they know what foods need to be stored where and the exact temperatures that they need to ... keep those types of bacteria and viruses under control,” Batie said.

She got interested in occupational safety and environmental technology by attending Odessa Career & Technical Early College High School (OCTECHS), one of Ector County ISD’s early college high schools where students can earn a high school diploma and associate degree at the same time.

“... At the time, I didn’t know anything about OSHA, I was actually going to be a business major. And after being there for about a month, that gave us the opportunity to tour around to see what other programs are offered. Well, one of them happened to be OSET. When I got there, I got a better in-depth (idea) of what they stand for, how they like to protect others, and the importance of maintaining the safety and health standards. When I got there and I started doing the classes, I found it very interesting. And I thought I want to be a part of the change. I want to try to make sure everybody has a right to a safe work environment, because it’s very important in order to keep our businesses up and running. So that’s what really pushed me to start looking out for jobs and ... more opportunity, where I can really show how I can contribute to changing how the safety world works," Batie said.

No one in Batie’s family has experience in health and safety, but she said she was inspired by Jessica Jordan, department chair of OSET at Odessa College.

Jordan had decades of experience in the safety field and is now in her sixth year with Odessa College.

Jordan said Batie started off as a shy, quiet, very reserved young woman. But over the years, she blossomed into “a very well spoken young lady and then she moved into our bachelor’s degree and it just took off from there.”

“She thinks about safety and sees things in safety the way some of us that have been in the field for years. She looks at everything very critically and she’s just an amazing student. I think her going to work for the health department is just absolutely fabulous. She’s going to do an amazing job for them,” Jordan said.

Jordan added that she thinks the world of Batie and that she has built up confidence over the years to emerge from her quietness.

“... I can’t say enough good about her. If there was one student in my career that I look back and go wow I am so proud of her, it’s Genesis. The amazing growth that I have seen in that girl in the last four years, it just blows me away,” Jordan said.

Something she enjoys about her job is meeting new people from all different cultures and professions.

She added that a lot of the skills she has learned can be applied to other businesses, as well.

Batie said she thought the program at OC was really good.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity. A lot of kids today, due to not only certain situations ... when it comes to money and opportunity, they don’t really have the tools and stuff available out there for them to find in order to go higher with their education. I feel like programs like OCTECHS really help establish a foundation for younger generations to go out there and try to continue to push further with the education because it’s very important now, especially with our economy growing as fast as it is to really have the tools needed to pursue education of any sort,” Batie said.

She said getting a BAAS degree was a key to advancing in her career, but it wasn’t only the degree that helped.

“I would really say just the program itself because it really helped me get a head start, because when I graduated with my high school diploma, I also graduated with my associate’s and that’s what really helped me get the push and kept me motivated to continue,” Batie said.

She added that it’s rewarding to have completed a bachelor’s degree in a short time at OC.

“I feel really accomplished because when I first started I was a little nervous because I ... wasn’t really thinking about what I was getting myself into. I thought it was going to be kind of like (a)... piece of cake type of thing. It actually was some work. I had my work cut out for me, but as time (went) on, I became more confident. I really took my education seriously and I wanted to show others that it’s possible that to go out there,” Batie said.

At the time, she was 18 but she was able to do what she needed to do.

“It was a really, really great feeling of accomplishment,” she added.

Batie has a younger sister and she tried to encourage her to attend OCTECHS, but she loves sports, which the early college high schools don’t offer.

“So she decided she was going to stay at OHS and continue to her sports over there. She loves soccer, so she’s trying to get a scholarship,” Batie said.

©2022 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.