Henry Ford Early College Graduates First Biotechnology Student

Release Date

Mikaylah Heffernan is the first student from the Henry Ford Early College (HFEC) to graduate from Henry Ford College’s (HFC) Biotechnology Program.

“That feels pretty good. It’s an amazing accomplishment, knowing that I’m the first and making it through the program,” said Heffernan, 18, of Brighton.

Heffernan graduated in August with her associate’s degree in Applied Science in Biotechnology. She is currently continuing continue her education at Michigan State University (MSU), majoring in Political Science/Pre-Law. Heffernan entered MSU with 60 credits. She hopes to eventually attend law school and believes her associate’s degree in Biotechnology will be advantageous.

“I don’t think I could write legislation and pass legislation if I don’t know the basis of legislation – especially science-based legislation. This is where having a science background will come in handy,” she said.

This summer, she interned at the Cellular and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry (CMBB) Lab at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in Ypsilanti, Mich. She worked on a project involving the connection between epigenetics (which details genes) and the evolution of house mice.

“Mikaylah showed exceptional growth during her time at HFC. It’s quite an accomplishment for a student this young to gain the level of laboratory expertise that Mikaylah has obtained,” said Dr. Jolie A. Stepaniak, HFCC director of the Biotechnology Program.

The Henry Ford Early College is a collaborative effort between HFC, Dearborn Public Schools and the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS). It is one of six “middle college” high schools that was announced in 2006 and funded by state grants. HFEC successfully launched in 2007. Its purpose is to prevent students from dropping out of school and prepare them for employment opportunities in the healthcare field. Students can either earn an associate’s degree in Pharmacy Technology, Physical Therapy Assistance, Radiography, Respiratory Therapy or Surgical Technology. The Biotechnology Program was added as an additional pathway for students in this program. This is a five-year program that students begin at the 9th grade level and complete as a fifth-year senior.

HFEC opened with approximately 40 ninth-graders in 2007. During the 9th and 10th grades, students are enrolled in high school classes with an emphasis on math and science. They are gradually introduced to dual enrollment college classes, and their schedules in their 12th and 13th years are almost exclusively HFCC coursework and clinical rotations at the HFHS. Upon graduation, qualified students are eligible for employment within the HFHS.

HFC’s Biotechnology Program was founded in 2009. It integrates authentic work-based experiences, training in modern instrumentation and new technologies, and rigorous science content to produce adaptable technicians who support the changing workplace. Although this program centers on skills identified by regional biotechnology employers, the skills gained by students in this program will prepare them for employment in biotechnology-based industries in other regions of the country and the world. Additionally, the skills students learn will prepare them for advanced training in biotechnology-related fields.

To learn more about the Henry Ford Early College program, please visit http://earlycollege.dearbornschools.org/. For more information about the HFC Biotechnology Program, please visit https://www.hfcc.edu/catalog/programs/2569, call 313-845-6310 or email science@hfcc.edu.