Yessica Moran, 17, a graduate of Piner High School, is heading to Dominican University for college. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Not every 17-year-old would be jazzed by suturing up a chicken breast.

But for Yessica Moran, a recent graduate of Piner High School who is headed off to Dominican University next month, the hands-on experience she learned in a job shadow program at Vista Family Health Center in Santa Rosa was a thrill.

“It’s awesome because we got to do so many things,” she said of the 10-week program. “I can’t believe it that it happened.”

It happened, in large part, because of Moran’s determination and people skills.

As a student in Piner’s Early College Magnet program and university pathway, she was selected for the prestigious Summer Health Careers Institute at Santa Rosa Junior College. There, she met physician Jimmy Wu, and that led to Wu’s eventual involvement in establishing a medical job shadow program with Piner students, said Piner biology teacher Judy Barcelon.

Moran, who aims to be a family physician, is a founding member of the school’s Health Occupation Students of America chapter and was named Sonoma County Office of Education’s 2012-13 Career Technical Education student of the year.

“HOSA allows people to explore what they want to do and kind of exposes us to medicine and find out what it is really like,” Moran said.

Moran has an inquisitive mind and isn’t afraid to ask questions in order to make sure she has a thorough understanding of the material, Barcelon said.

“She is willing to put herself out there to make sure that she got it. It kind of makes the class a better place for understanding because there is someone there to do that,” she said.

While managing a better than 3.0 grade point average high school, Moran also found time to play tennis all four years. She was named captain of the Prospectors squad in her final season.

She also played two years of softball and swam her senior year.

This summer, she took a job at Subway to help pay for college.

Her parents, neither of whom attended college, are learning the process with her, she said.

“It was tough at first,” she said. “I had no one to ask ‘What’s next?’ But they are super proud, they are super excited.”

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press or on Twitter @benefield.

Yessica Moran bio box

Age: 17

Birthplace: Michoacan, Mexico

Lives with: Mom Yesenia Valencia, dad Fernando Moran, younger brother, Axel

What’s in her iPod: Mario, J-Lo, Pitbull and Mexican music

Favorite hobby: Watching movies with her parents

Dream job: Family doctor

Favorite TV show: How I Met Your Mother, Friends

Favorite food: Spicy, green enchiladas, French fries

Quote: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”