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This year's SSJP graduates pose with T-shirts bearing their colleges' names at the annual SSJP graduation ceremony.
If it weren't for the Student Success Jobs Program (SSJP), Jacqueline Pires isn't sure she would be where she is today-poised to matriculate into UMass Medical School this fall.
"Having a dream and getting there are very difficult when you look like me and come from the neighborhood I come from," she said, referring to growing up in Dorchester. "But I was very lucky that SSJP found me and saw something in me that I didn't see in myself."
SSJP is now in its 13th year of pairing high school students in Boston with mentors at BWH for paid internships. The program also supports students in filling out their college applications, provides preparation for the SATs and offers scholarships to graduating seniors with the financial support of Partners HealthCare.
SSJP by the numbers
Of the 125 alumni of SSJP:
66 percent are in college
31 percent have already attained a degree
76 percent major in health, science or the medical field
19 currenly are employed at BWH
Pires, who is the program's first student to enter medical school, delivered an inspiring speech to the graduates of this year's SSJP class in May, filling them in on the doors that were opened to her because of her participation in the program. She said that during all of her 12 medical school interviews, school administrators and staff were impressed that she had worked at an institution as prestigious as BWH. "I have also watched my SSJP experience land me nationally competitive internships," she said.
In her closing, she offered these words of encouragement: "Somebody saw a spark in you, and believe me, it was not a mistake. Everything you have learned in the past four years will help you get where you want to go."
During the graduation, family members, friends and the BWH program's mentors gathered to celebrate the commitment and accomplishments of the 76 students in the program. Of those, 23 are graduating seniors headed to college this fall-the largest graduating SSJP class.
Dougmawi Tewodrose, a graduating senior who will attend Boston College this fall, said he is grateful for all he has learned from SSJP in the last three years, from first working in Central Transport to later supporting the Outpatient Pharmacy. "I plan to major in biology with the hope of someday working at a pharmaceutical company to conduct research on new drugs that will save lives," he said.
The opportunities Tewodrose and all of his SSJP peers have through the program are enriched by the relationships with their mentors in departments throughout the hospital. "Mentors have an unwavering commitment to students," said Lisa Taylor-Montminy, youth development manager for the Center for Community Health and Health Equity, which oversees SSJP and offers many other programs and services to elevate the health status of the communities BWH serves. "The relationships are profound, meaningful and often lifelong."
SSJP students this year have already received some prestigious awards and honors. Daniel Martinez, who will attend Harvard University this fall, received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which provides full tuition and room and board for college and graduate school. Jianjie Liu, a sophomore at Boston Latin Academy, was a recipient of the Boston ArtScience Prize, which includes a trip to Paris and $10,000 to fund his team's project idea about developing a biodegradable substitute for all plastic products.
SSJP graduate Jacqueline Pires will attend medical school in the fall-the program's first student to do so.