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September 06, 2013 // By Greg Richter // Comments

Students Hit the Books and the Halls of the Hospital in Penn Medicine's Unique Career Prep Program for Students in West Philadelphia High Schools

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Nahree-Anderson-Shanice-Jackson-Lorna-Taylor-and-Diane-Leichter-for-blogGathering for a recent ceremony celebrating this year’s graduating class, Penn Medicine staff, family members, community partners, and friends quickly learned what makes the comprehensive Penn Medicine High School Pipeline program a success every year.  That success is measured in each and every student entering the program. Indeed, 100 percent of pipeline students in 2012 graduated from high school, compared to 59% in the city of Philadelphia as a whole. One hundred percent of the class was accepted into college as well.

In the program, students worked across UPHS, regularly met with different mentors and managers, and experienced other professional development opportunities. They accomplished this while taking community college courses and everything else that comes with being a high school student.

With financial support from Penn Medicine, University City District (UCD), and the Philadelphia Youth Network, Pipeline graduates can become a Penn Medicine Academy Intern. The internship invites approximately ten students to work 20 hours a week and be paid for 40 hours a week. The 40 hours allows participants to take advantage of Penn Medicine’s tuition benefit to help fund a college education.

In total, 88 students have served in the 2-year, year-round program since it began in 2010. From 2007-2010, the program was an internship-only program. Since 2007, 197 students –all drawn from West Philadelphia high schools, including mostly recently Boys Latin Charter HS, Paul Robeson HS, and Sayre HS -- have been enrolled in Pipeline.

“You not only met our expectations, but you exceeded them,” said Frances Graham, associate director of workforce development, to the student attendees.

Graham credits Judy Schueler, vice president, Organizational Development, and chief Human Resources officer, as the visionary who brought the project to fruition.  Schueler told the attendees that she meets new hires monthly and asks what attracted them to work at Penn Medicine. In addition to salary, benefits, reputation of the institution, and other factors, Schueler says that the “culture of learning and innovation” attracts people and convinces them to stay long term.

It is this commitment that led Schueler to create the Pipeline program as a summer internship six years ago, and extend it to a 12-month program in 2010.

“This is part of Penn Medicine’s commitment to the belief that education transforms lives,” said Schueler. “One hundred percent of this graduating class is going to college, and that is a tribute to the students, to our faculty and staff who serve as mentors, and particular praise to Telandria Boyd-Johnson and Frances Graham who work with this program every day.” 

The program recruits solely from West Philadelphia schools, and also mirrors one of the missions of Penn President Amy Gutmann’s Penn Compact as a tribute to the University’s commitment to its community.

Additional funding comes from HUP’s Trauma department in the form of $500 scholarships for seven selected students aspiring for a health care career.

The impact of these students and their mentors is felt throughout UPHS. One example is Victoria Brown, clinical transplant nurse in Surgical Nursing, who mentored Brittney Williams on Rhoads 4.

“The people I met and the lessons I learned made it fun,” said Williams. “It was definitely a good experience.”

During her internship, Brittney made patient’s beds, talked to patients, delivered ice and supplies, answered the front desk phone, directed family members, and assisted wherever needed.

Brittany looks forward to taking what she learned in this experience to Jackson State University this Fall, where she is attending on a full scholarship.

“Brittany and I formed a bond beyond mentorship,” said Brown.  “We talked about the importance of being persistent and organized in everything you do, and avoiding procrastination. No matter what, wherever you are, you always represent yourself and want to make sure you are professional and perform to what you speak to and stand for.”

Another story is Shanice Jackson, who is a CCP student and current PMA intern for the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine Rapid Response Team.  She credits the Academy and the mentoring she receives from Andrea Blount, primary care connector nurse, in Trauma, with helping direct her career.

“When I first came to the program, I said I wanted to be a neonatal nurse,” said Jackson. “I didn’t want to work with older populations. Being in the Trauma department and assisting with falls prevention programs taught me that older patients are just as important.”

While Penn Medicine and partners invested in these students, the students invested much time and energy in return.
“For the time they could have spent sleeping in, going to the movies or playing video games, they decided ‘I’m going to work, take college courses, do my homework, study and prepare for my future -- we are so proud of them,’” said Boyd-Johnson, a workforce development coordinator at Penn Medicine.

Schueler extended her praise to students for their achievements and challenged them to reach new heights, both personally and professionally.

“Each and every day you have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Schueler. “Seize that opportunity.”


Community College of Philadelphia Student Shanice Jackson, (second from left), who currently transports HUP patients in the Pipeline Program, with a Silverstein 9 team at the HS Pipeline graduation (from l to r): Nahree Anderson, nursing assistant, Lorna Taylor, unit secretary, and Diane Leichter, nurse manager.

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