Choosing a college to attend can be one of the most important decisions a person can make. People employ a variety of strategies to locate a school that fits their specific needs. Efforts vary greatly when pinpointing that “one” college and some go to inordinate lengths to make sure they end up in the best location possible. Calling and researching all 29 colleges in the USA that offer an Invasive Cardiovascular Technology program from Hawaii and asking each detailed questions about their college and the program is the way one Northland Community and Technical College student came to East Grand Forks to enroll in the Cardiovascular Technology- Invasive program.
Leo Franco was born in Cuba before moving to Spain and eventually Hawaii, used this exact approach to find the best Invasive Cardiovascular Technology program in the country for his needs. While living in Hawaii a good friend went into cardiac arrest. He stayed with his friend at the hospital in Honolulu for nearly a week. It was during this time that he was shown a video about the cardio unit his friend was receiving his treatment in and it “just clicked”.
Franco had been looking to go into a health related field for some time and this was the moment he knew that it was time and that the cardiovascular technology program was where he belonged. The only question that remained was where to go to get the best education for the program. He began researching colleges and found 29 schools that offered the program. He personally called every school and gathered as much information as possible to make an informed decision. After the calls and Internet research, he narrowed it down to a school in Kentucky and Northland Community & Technical College. With tuition much more reasonable and pre-requisite classes included in the program, Franco decided to make Northland his college of choice.
I really like the smaller class sizes. It’s been great, I am really thankful for the one-on-one time and I like being in the lab.
Franco had been working as an interpreter and doing construction work in Hawaii and admits he had been “out of school for a while.” He studied diligently for three weeks and did very well on his entrance tests. “April 2011 was an important month for me. Everything happened in such a short time!” mentioned Franco. He packed all of his belongings in his SUV and had it shipped from Hawaii to Seattle, WA. He flew there and waited for his vehicle with all of his possessions inside of it to arrive. Once it arrived he punched his destination in his smart phone and started driving. Franco drove for four days to reach East Grand Forks, MN just days before his classes started. “The landscape and climate changed drastically! I have never been anywhere so flat,” added Franco.
He arrived on May 13, 2011 and classes were set to start on May 16. Franco had never been in the area before, knew no one when he arrived, and didn’t have living arrangements. He checked into a motel for a few days but had a place to live and a roommate with similar interests within two days. The night before classes were scheduled to begin, Franco had never seen campus so he plugged the address into his phone and decided he better see where it was before classes started the next morning.
“I prefer to make arrangements as I go, meet the locals and make decisions based on what I am seeing rather than make reservations in advance,” said Franco. Franco is an avid world traveler having visited 13 countries and 29 states, visiting some countries up to seven times. From China to Egypt to Central America and New Zealand, Franco has traveled this way and has the stories to prove that he knows what he is doing. His interests include traveling, hunting, fishing, and cooking; the Grand Forks area proved to offer much of what he was looking for. As he put it, “although much colder, it’s been a good fit for me.”
“I really like the smaller class sizes. It’s been great, I am really thankful for the one-on-one time and I like being in the lab,” said Franco. The two-year program that includes a five-month clinical period, prepares students through the use of specific high-technology equipment at the direction of qualified physicians, to assist in the performance of procedures on patients leading to the diagnosis and treatment of congenital and acquired heart disease. “English is my second language so I need to hear the technical jargon several times and the instructor is great about giving us a lot of time. They want us to succeed; they let us know the key points and what we will be tested on so we can really focus on those points. They are always willing to go out of their way to answer questions anytime,” said Franco. He added, “We are like a small family (referring to the students in the program), you get to know everyone in the program. It’s great.”
“We can do our clinicals anywhere if the hospital and college can make an agreement. It is up to us to start the process and I have been in contact with several hospitals across the country,” stated Franco. The five-month clinical period is performed at multiple locations so students see different scenarios and get a wide scope of how things are done in different hospitals. Upon completion of the program the student will be prepared to enter a rapidly growing workforce. “There is a projected 26 percent increase in jobs for this,” stressed Franco. Franco hopes to move to Utah or possibly Alaska to get a job upon graduation.
Franco exemplifies how Northland is not simply a school with a local reach. Northland’s cutting-edge technology and well-educated instructors that teach innovative programs prove that Northland can compete with any school in the country; just ask the other 28 schools that missed out on Leo Franco.