UPMC bridges high school to health career

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Providing educational options, along with career awareness, all while promoting success inside the classroom and in the workplace, are just a few of the ways UPMC is helping students make an easier transition from their high school halls to the “real world.”

On Jan. 31, more than 100 high school students from schools all over the Greater Pittsburgh area attended the UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion’s Next Steps Bridges to Health Care Careers Program summit at the Herberman Conference Center, in Shadyside, to gain insight from representatives from UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh, the Community College of Allegheny County and Kaplan Career Institute on how to pursue a career in the health care field upon graduation, while engaging with professionals from a variety of health care careers.

Makayla Choat, 16, from University Prep but who is taking a course at Westinghouse, said the Next Steps Bridges program has “given me a lot of information on what I need to know and what I should know; because when I first started this I didn’t know anything and I’ve learned a lot since I started it.” She also said, “And being here today has given me even more information.” Choat, whose mother and grandmother both work in the health care field, plans to be a pediatrician.

The Bridges to Health Care Careers Program, for high school students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades, is an extension of the Center for Engagement and Inclusion’s Next Step Youth Program, which provides students in grades K-12 with career awareness and exploration opportunities, all while promoting academic achievement, personal growth and healthy life choices.

“It is our goal to empower the quality of each student’s lives to reflect individual superior dignity and personal achievement,” Winifred Torbert, program director of Community Engagement and Next Steps Youth Programs for the UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion, said. “(We want to) help build a pipeline from high school to the workplace, college, allied high school, or a nursing school, that would ultimately enhance their opportunity to be among the pool of potential candidates ready for meaningful employment in the health care industry.”

She added that the Next Steps Bridges To Health Care Careers Program offers educational programs that support a pipeline to future health care talents; it cultivates and strengthens working relationships with community and educational partners to provide exposure to the many careers in health care; that through its collaborations of parents, the community and health care partners, young people are given the information needed to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors and practices; that it provides the marketable skills needed for fields in high demand and with ample professional growth opportunities; and that it exposes youth to experiences that inspire them to achieve their individual potential.

During the summit, representatives spoke with students from Pittsburgh Public Schools such as Perry High School, Westinghouse High School and Carrick High School, Gateway High School, Montour High School, and more, about topics such as Health Care Careers, Two Year Programs, College and University Programs and Allies Health Schools. There was also a Question and Answer session, where representatives answered questions directly from students. Torbert said she was pleased with last Friday’s turnout and the number of students that enrolled in the program with an interest in seeking a career in the health care field.

Along with hearing from local institutions and engaging with health care professionals, students also received a word from the keynote speaker Paula K. Davis, assistant vice chancellor for Health Sciences Diversity at the University of Pittsburgh, entitled “Decisions, Decisions.” Davis spoke on how one’s decisions can decide the course of their life and the importance on making healthy decisions. She also provided the students with steps to making good decisions.

“I hope students took away from this event that there are vast opportunities for them in the health care profession here in Pittsburgh, that there are people working in higher education that want to help them succeed and that we value their contributions,” said Davis. “We want them well educated, well prepared and ready to serve.”

Davis said programs like the Bridges Program are important because too often students are not exposed to the other career opportunities in the health care field that they can be apart of beyond being a doctor, a nurse or a dentist, and that it gives students a broader view while also providing networking opportunities.

Breonna Thorne, 17, Perry said she plans to be a pediatrician as well as owning a hospital. She said the program “will prepare me for college and to get those credits so I can be a pediatrician and then have my business. It is experience.”

With the success of its seminar, the Bridges program plans to continue its outreach through activities that will include e-mentoring workshops, hospital and facility tours, career presentations, Fast Track to Health Care career fairs, job shadowing and more.

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