This summer 20 high school students participated in the Health Career Exploration Program at St. Luke’s University Health Network, according to a news release.
This paid and volunteer initiative introduces rising seniors in the Allentown and Bethlehem school districts to careers in health care, an industry that is projected to grow at a rapid pace in the coming years.
The program is designed specifically for students who have socio-economic barriers to summer jobs and aims to give them valuable skills that will help them when they go to post-secondary school or enter the workforce after graduation.
Daikiry Perez, an 18 year old Freedom High School student, has been shadowing patient care assistants as part of the initiative. Every weekday since June 30, she has risen early to walk 30 minutes to St. Luke’s Bethlehem campus.
Perez has wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a child and saw newborns in a neonatal unit. She has been observing the patient care assistants as they take temperatures, check blood pressure and answer bell calls. The experience has made her more determined than ever to become a medical professional.
“When a patient tells you how grateful they are, it really makes me happy,” Perez said in the news release.
Perez and the other students in the program spent their first week in an orientation where they got lessons on professional development, including employer expectations, preparing for job interviews and managing finances from representatives from Northampton Community College, the St. Luke’s School of Nursing, and BB&T Bank.
The students then spend five weeks working 30 hours a week in jobs that range from helping patient care assistants to working in the pharmacy and the business department.
“St. Luke’s is very community oriented and we want the community to thrive,” said Jaclyn Finelli, network coordinator of adolescent career mentoring initiatives. “A way to do this is to help kids who may be stuck in a cycle.”
Johnell Sloppy, 18, a Bethlehem Catholic High School student, is helping patient care assistants in a medical-surgical unit at the Bethlehem campus.
Johnell also wants to be a registered nurse and plans on attending Northampton Community College followed by St. Luke’s School of Nursing.
“I like helping people…,” he said.
The summer program is funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federal program that is designed to help disadvantaged families achieve self-sufficiency through jobs that pay livable wages.
The students earn $10.35 an hour and are based at the Anderson, Allentown, Bethlehem and Sacred Heart campuses as well as the St. Luke’s Center.
St. Luke’s also runs a similar paid exploration program during the school year that targets Allentown and Bethlehem Area students who are not only economically disadvantaged but also have deficient English and math skills.
In that program, students work after school from 4 – 8 p.m. throughout the school year.