“Thanks for pushing me to do my best … I believe in myself more than I ever did.”
Local students in Penn Medicine’s High School Pipeline Program work hard. Indeed, they’re responsible for keeping up their grades in school while taking college-level courses and working within the University of Pennsylvania Health System. But the results -– as the quote above illustrates – are well worth it.
The Pipeline Program began as a summer internship five years ago as a way to introduce students to the career choices available in health care as well as provide them with the opportunity to work in a health-care setting. By 2010, it had evolved into much more. Pipeline is now a two-year program for high school juniors and seniors which not only provides college credits through the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) but also professional development training and experience working in a health-care environment.
Getting into the program is not easy. Applicants with an interest in a health-care career must score at least at the 098/099 level on CCP’s English placement test, have no serious disciplinary violations on their record, hold a high grade-point average, and have -- and maintain -- at least a 90 percent high school attendance rate. Students are chosen from Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, Paul Robeson High School, and William L. Sayre High School.
The students can choose to work in either a clinical or nonclincal area at one of Penn Medicine’s three hospitals (Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and Pennsylvania Hospital) or other facilities within the Health System. Each student receives guidance and feedback from a worksite manager or manager designee.
Professional development training kicks in at the start of the program. Students learn interpersonal skills -– as well as interview skills and resume writing -- that will help them no matter where their career path takes them. After the 6- to 8-week training, and interviews with three Health System departments, students are matched with a location that best meets their interests.
Then the real challenge begins. In addition to working each week at their site, students take one college course every semester. There is no cost to the student; Penn Medicine covers the tuition for these classes. According to Telandria Boyd-Johnson, Workforce Development coordinator, the students spend from five to 20 hours a week on Pipeline activities alone. In their senior year, students are also offered a career exploration class, thanks to a partnership between Penn Medicine and University City District
By the time they graduate and the program ends in August, Pipeline students already have four or five college courses under their belts. “It’s an advantage to have these college credits, these experiences, and these skills at such a young age,” Boyd-Johnson said.
Almost all of the program’s graduates -– almost 70 to date -- have gone onto college, either directly after high school or within the year. Those who attend a local college are eligible to become a Penn Medicine Academy intern for a year. Interns work 20 hours but are paid for 40 (thanks again to the Penn Medicine-University City District partnership). They are also required to take at least two college courses each semester… and maintain a good GPA. The Pipeline program also offers interns the option to complete the requirements to become a certified nursing assistant for those who wish to enter a nursing career. Because the interns are considered employees, they are eligible for Penn Medicine’s $8,000 tuition benefit. “We advise them to take as many courses as they can!”
Clearly the Penn Medicine Pipeline Program makes a difference in the lives of the students but it’s also had an impact on their family members. Said one parent, “I have seen my daughter grow and mature; it became more than just a place she worked. The friendships that she has formed will last throughout her lifetime.”
Another said, “I am a so, so proud mother. I always wanted college for [my son]. I didn’t go but this program has opened a door for our dreams.”
Photo caption: Andrea Blount (c), a mentor in the Penn Medicine Pipeline Program, with the 2012 program graduates.