It started with four high school seniors, three from William Penn and one from McKean.
As part of Jobs for Delaware Graduates’ CORE program with ChristianaCare, they piloted a hands-on, technical workforce development experience that took them out of school a couple of mornings a week and into a real hospital setting, where paid internships helped put them on a path toward careers in healthcare — or not.
“I had a student last year who said that she wanted to be a doctor,” said Laurie Fuski, program manager for Jobs for Delaware Graduates who oversaw the internships. “She came out and said, ‘You know, I don’t like talking to people this much, I think I’m going to go into computer technology.'”
Fuski laughed as she told the story, but the fact that the student changed her mind isn’t considered a failure of the program.
“We saw it as a good thing,” she said. “She was ready to spend all this money for college on that track.”
For others, like Sierra, one of the William Penn students from the first year in 2018, the CORE ChristianaCare program put her on a path toward a career that may have seemed out of reach.
Sierra developed an interest in becoming an emergency trauma nurse after facing a series of medical challenges throughout high school, leading her to enroll in William Penn’s Allied Health Pathway and, in her senior year, to apply for a CORE internship placement in the medical field. With her family experiencing financial hardships, Sierra was working at both Walgreens and her church’s day care center to help with household bills while going to school. The paid placement at ChristianaCare allowed her to work alongside hospital professionals in several departments including physical therapy, clinical engineering and the cancer center.
After graduation, Sierra enrolled in the associate’s degree of science program at Delaware Technical and Community College (DTCC).
“Being familiar with some of the medical terminology and medical procedures really gave me an advantage during the first year at college,” she said. COVID-19 set her studies back a bit, but plans to pursue nursing clinical courses at DTCC and recently applied for a residency internship at ChristianaCare.
COVID-19 has been a setback for the CORE program as well, as students have not been able to work in the hospital during the pandemic. Currently, the program has two Zoom meetings a month, with hopes to return students to in-person internships as soon as it’s safe.
The program is for public high school seniors in New Castle County who have an interest in working in healthcare, or who are undecided but open to considering a job in healthcare. Opportunities are shared with teachers, who share them with students. Interested students go through a formal application process, including an interview, followed by an onboarding process for the nine-month, two-day-a-week commitment.
“We teach problem solving and critical thinking in a workplace where it’s very different from school,” said Fuski. “You have to be on time, there are certain expectations, you can’t play on your cell phone.”
In its third year, the program has seen students from Penn, McKean, Dickinson, Mount Pleasant, Middletown, Newark and Concord. The goal is to expand the program to include more students, including students in Kent and Sussex counties, as well as starting the track in junior year instead of senior year.
“What ChristianaCare wants is to build a pipeline of potential workers,” said Fuski, whether it encourages them to go into allied health majors at community colleges or pushes them toward medical school ambitions.-30-
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