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Five years ago, Hawa Traore, age 18, could not read, write or speak the English language. Today, she spends her days in the BWH Allergy Lab or helping fellow classmates get ahead in science class and will graduate as valedictorian from New Mission High School with a 3.8 GPA.
Traore’s success is largely due to BWH’s Student Success Jobs Program (SSJP)—a paid internship program for Boston high school students provided by the Office for Women, Family and Community Programs. The students are paired with mentors, BWH doctors, nurses and researchers, who volunteer to provide hands-on experience and to discuss the right path for college. The students also attend seminars, focusing on college preparation, health careers and teen health issues.
“This has proven to be a great network for the students to bond with a professional, who can help steer them in the right direction to enter the medical field,” said Amy Belyea, Youth Programs manager, Office for Women, Family and Community Programs.
Traore works with Michael Gurish, PhD, in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, where she maintains, infects and tests cells. “For the first time in my life, I feel confident in myself. Dr. Gurish offers wonderful guidance,” she said.
According to Gurish, who has been involved with the SSJP for four years, “Hawai is very good at what she does, and she has handled the level of difficulty well. She pays attention to detail and actively seeks help for answers and understanding.”
Traore moved to the U.S. from West Africa in 1998. She credits her experience at BWH with helping her to transition into American culture. Traore will attend UMass, Boston in the fall to pursue a career in pharmacy. “I had to work very hard to get where I am, but it was worth it,” she said.