It’s been three years in the making for Girard High School senior Kada Williams, but she finally got the chance to be one of her school’s Teen Outreach members through Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.
The program exposes area high school students to leadership training, career opportunities in the medical field and community service projects where they work alongside hospital personnel and pediatric patients.
Students from throughout the tri-county area meet monthly to hear keynote addresses from hospital personnel and learn about upcoming volunteering opportunities.
“I’ve been wanting to do this since my sophomore year,” Williams said. “I like that I can be close to the hospital and hospital staff, and be able to explore healthcare careers and get a better idea what I want to do.”
Williams is eyeing a career in international medicine, and is considering attending Georgetown or Johns Hopkins after high school. Many of the other participants are also exploring medical careers. When guest speaker Laura Cessna asked students at one of the group’s monthly meetings who was considering a career as a physician, approximately half of them raised their hands, leading to a lengthy discussion about what it takes to get into medical school.
“I challenged the kids by asking them ‘What are you doing now and what will you be doing in college to prepare for the career you want to pursue,’ and programs like this are effective ways to get that ground-floor experience they need,” said Cessna, deployment leader in organizational effectiveness and transformation, Akron Children’s Hospital.
More than 90 students from 19 high schools in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties are involved in this program, which is based in the Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Community Outreach, Education and Support Center.
“Smaller children have always had a special place in my heart,” said Columbiana High School junior Dean Elnaas. “I want to get into the medical field someday, and being part of Akron Children’s is the best way I thought I could get some experience and give back to the community.”
Francine McBride, the hospital’s program education coordinator, community, coordinates the program and raves about the teens’ invaluable role they play in several Akron Children’s community initiatives.
“I don’t know what we’d do without them,” she said. “They’re such a great help, and they bring so much enthusiasm to each assignment.”