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Student Success Jobs Program staff and students celebrate during the graduation ceremony.
Just three years ago, Melissa Rocha was homeless living in a shelter with her mom and younger brother. This spring, the 17 year old graduated from Health Careers Academy as class valedictorian and was one of 10 students in the country accepted to the fiercely competitive Early Medical Scholars Program at the University of Rochester.
Rocha is excited to begin the eight-year program, which includes a bachelor’s degree and then a medical degree. “It was my experience with the Student Success Jobs Program (SSJP) that gave me the advantage,” she said during the SSJP graduation ceremony in the Bornstein Amphitheater. “SSJP has been the highlight of my life the past few years.”
She was one of 50 students graduating from the BWH program for highly motivated students from seven Boston high schools in June. Now in its ninth year, SSJP continues to pair students with BWH mentors in departments throughout the hospital for paid internships that provide them with an inside look at careers in health care.
Dedicated mentors are the backbone of the program. Rocha told her mentor Yvonne Michaud, MS, RN, director of the Burn and Trauma Program, “I am so thankful to have been matched with you.” She thanked Michaud for including her in observing patient rounds and cases in the Operating Room. “You have given me invaluable advice that I will carry with me forever.”
“The program has grown enormously in the past few years,” said Amy Belyea, Youth Programs manager in the Center for Community Health and Health Equity. “This year, we added an intensive college prep workshop series to guide seniors through the college application process.”
That was especially helpful to Yoal Peguero, who just graduated from Boston Latin Academy and will begin at Boston University as a chemistry major this fall. “SSJP has meant much more to me than an after school job,” said the aspiring anesthesiologist, who hopes to return to BWH one day as a resident in Anesthesiology. “It has been a life-changing experience.”
Boston Superintendent of Public Schools Dr. Carol Johnson was the keynote speaker. She shared with the graduates her key ingredients to success: hard work and teamwork; attitude; and passion. “You’ve been born at an unprecedented time in history where your opportunities are truly limitless,” she said.
This year, 12 SSJP high school seniors received financial scholarship awards. SSJP has given out $103,000 to date in scholarships to graduating seniors.
BWH President Gary Gottlieb, MD, MBA, thanked the program sponsors and congratulated the students. “You are our future; you are the future of health care in this country,” he said, urging them to return to BWH after college.
Watch a video of the SSJP graduation.
From left, SSJP mentor Yvonne Michaud, graduate Melissa Rocha, her mother, Osvaldina Rocha, and Health Careers Academy Headmaster Dr. Caren Walker Gregory.
The Student Success Jobs Program was one of five hospital-led programs in the country to receive a 2009 NOVA Award in honor of its commitment to improving community health.
American Hospital Association chairman-elect Richard De Filippi presented the award during the Student Success Jobs Program graduation in June. “Congratulations to the graduates,” he said, thanking them for the contributions they’ve already made to health care, and especially for those they will make in the future.
The program introduces students from the city’s lowest income communities to careers in health care, science and medicine through paid internships within the hospital. The outcomes are impressive, with 98 percent of SSJP high school seniors pursuing a college education after graduating, and 72 percent of these students majoring in science, medical or health related fields of study. Thirty-one percent of responding alumni have held health related positions in the greater Boston area since graduating from SSJP, with 63 percent employed at BWH.
“We know that hospitals improve the health of a community by caring for the sick, but hospitals can also inspire and work with those around them, so that together they can extend their reach,” said AHA president and CEO Rich Umbdenstock in a press release about the award. “The AHA NOVA Award recognizes those hospitals that, through collaboration, provide for the community through education, outreach and so much more.”
SSJP leadership also will be honored at a July 25 ceremony during the association’s annual Health Forum Leadership Summit in San Francisco.