Celebrating student success during national Hispanic Heritage Month at Metro Tech
Posted on 09/23/2021
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Celebrating student success during national Hispanic Heritage Month at Metro Tech
Student’s college and career goals supported by Metro Tech’s STEM academy

OKLAHOMA CITY – September is national Hispanic Heritage Month. Metro Tech’s diverse campuses encompass a large Hispanic population with many successful stories to share. One of which is Joana Pantoja. From Career Tech student to college graduate, Dr. Pantoja sets her sights high on her new career as a doctor of optometry. As of Aug. 2021, she is an integral part of the professional eyecare team at Advanced Family Eyecare Vision Source in Oklahoma City.

As an ASTEC high school sophomore, Pantoja discovered a love for eyecare after the first year of a three-year STEM program designed to explore health careers. She would soon be the first-generation college graduate in her family.

Pantoja said, “I never liked blood growing up and had the false view that anything healthcare related would not be a choice. At 15-years-old, I knew that science was one of my favorite subjects, I enjoyed talking to people and helping any way I could.”

STEM Academy Director Brian Leaver said, “When I visit ASTEC high school, we look for students with high scores in math and science. I told Joana that since she loved science and helping people, she should give the program a try because it would provide the opportunity to explore different health occupations that didn’t involve blood.” 

Metro Tech’s Biomedical Sciences Academy helped Pantoja prepare for the rigors of college and provided a well-rounded experience that some high school students may not get. She was active in Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) where she traveled to other states to compete in parliamentary procedures against other students from around the nation. Participation in Metro Tech’s annual Hospital Day helped her experience simulated eye trauma through the replication of disaster situations.

Her Metro Tech teachers Sabrina Conlee, Karen Upton with Mr. Leaver recognized her interest, advised her on college choices and wrote recommendation letters.

Pantoja added, “I viewed myself at that time – 15 years down the road – being an optometrist and owning my own private practice; really, without knowing how I would do it financially.”

The Metro Tech Foundation helped her realize that she could attend college with scholarships aiding in tuition assistance. She was awarded the $2,000 Dr. James Branscum Character First Scholarship. 

In 2017, Pantoja graduated debt free with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Oklahoma. Her internship in Dr. Melville Vaughn’s lab, with other achievements, helped her receive scholarships, awards and honors. In May 2021, she graduated from Northeastern State University where she was one of 28 students accepted into the state’s only Optometry degree program.

Dr. Pantoja said she will conduct comprehensive eye exams on patients of all ages. Treat and diagnose various eye conditions related to diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Specialize in dry eye management, myopia (nearsightedness) control and vision therapy. 

About Metro Tech

One of the largest and most diverse technology centers in Oklahoma, Metro Tech has four campuses offering short-term, career and customized business training. Campuses are located in South Oklahoma City, Northeast Oklahoma City, the Will Rogers Airport and Downtown Oklahoma City. www.metrotech.edu