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BMC partnership brings training, job opportunities to Madison Park students

Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson is a Boston-based freelance journalist covering urban/social issues and policy. VIEW BIO
BMC partnership brings training, job opportunities to Madison Park students
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School students (l-r) Stevenson Elianor, Debora Cabrera-Santana, Arlyn Brea-Peña, Elise Garcia-Arroyo, Adri Sanchez and Anders Fleurimond, all also enrolled in The Possible Project, at Boston Medical Center after attending a job readiness workshop. PHOTO: COURTESY BOSTON MEDICAL CENTER

Students in Madison Park Technical Vocational High School’s allied health programs have a new opportunity this year to shadow health professionals at Boston Medical Center, learn about jobs and career paths at BMC — one of the city’s largest employers — and apply for jobs there.

The new partnership, launched in October, was spearheaded by The Possible Project (TPP), a Cambridge-based nonprofit that focuses on developing an entrepreneurial mindset and career readiness in high school students. TPP began working within Madison Park High School in 2016, providing after-school training and practice sessions in college and career decision-making, entrepreneurship and “soft skills” for work success. This year, TPP added an industry-specific component by connecting students with the medical center.

“The students gain from a three-way partnership of school, nonprofit and industry,” said Robert Finnegan, TPP’s vice president of enterprises and alliances, who was the liaison to BMC when forming the Madison Park partnership. “They get soft skills, technical skills, and a committed industry partner.”

The new program aims to serve students not immediately interested in college and those looking into direct career paths in addition to college plans, Finnegan said. While the BMC sessions are geared toward jobs in a medical institution, TPP’s focus on entrepreneurship and social-emotional skills helps prepare students to manage their own paths, he said.

“We hear, all the time, employers saying, ‘We can train them on the tech skills, but we want self-starters, innovative thinkers,’” he said. “Our TPP program provides part of that.”

Health career exposure

The partnership serves juniors and seniors who are enrolled in health assistant or dental assistant specialties at Madison Park and are participating in TPP after-school programming. Since October, students have paid regular visits to BMC for job shadowing and information sessions on health care specialties.

On a Friday in late January, a group of 15 students walked over from the high school to a BMC administration building in the South End for a presentation on radiology. With them were dental assisting instructor Amy McCormick and nursing instructor Opal Hines-Fisher.

Gathered around an oval conference table, the group paid rapt attention as BMC Radiology Manager Malissa Danforth described the types of problems radiology helps diagnose, from fractures to internal bleeding and cancers, and specialties in X-ray, ultrasound, CT scans, MRI, breast imaging and nuclear medicine imaging.

“There’s new technology all the time,” she said. “It’s a really exciting career. And it’s an up-and-coming field — everyone in the hospital uses imaging.”

Her slide show drew the students in with examples of high-tech machinery and diagnostic images. Students gasped in shock when an X-ray image of normal pelvic, hip and femur bones was followed by another showing those bones dislocated and fractured in a car accident. They emitted a collective “Awwww!” at an ultrasound image of a healthy fetus in the womb.

Radiology careers can begin after a two-year or four-year degree and licensure, Danforth noted, and BMC job opportunities lie not only in the main hospital, but also in neighborhood clinics such as Whittier, Uphams Corner, Codman Square and Mattapan.

Hines-Fisher asked about starting salaries, and the group appeared pleased to hear that a starting salary is around $50,000, with specialists earning more.

Danforth told the students that technical skills are important, but attitude and other traits are also key.

“I am looking for somebody that has a great personality, can work well with others, takes initiative, and has drive and passion for what they went to school for,” she said. “If you don’t know our equipment, I can show you, I can teach you. But if you have a negative attitude, I can’t change that.”

Marie Pierre, an 11th-grader in Madison Park’s health assistant program, mentioned some of the most valuable takeaways for her so far: learning about HIPAA patient privacy guidelines, helping with patient care while shadowing nursing assistants, and receiving advice and encouragement directly from clinicians and HR representatives.

Pierre arrived from Haiti only two years ago and is still working on her English skills, she said, but is starting to plan beyond her high school diploma.

“I want to be a nurse practitioner,” she told the Banner. “I am really passionate about nursing, and about the medical field.”

Employment prep

Over the next two months, employment readiness training will ramp up, with students participating in mock interviews and resume writing sessions and meeting recruiters from different areas in the hospital.

Near the end of the school year, participants who are seniors can apply for open jobs. Examples of entry-level positions include medical assistant, dental assistant, nursing assistant and ambulatory services representative, said Nina Tse, talent acquisition coordinator in BMC’s human resources department. Starting pay varies but will be above the hospital’s living wage standard of $15 per hour.

Tse is also the BMC project coordinator for the Madison Park partnership. She wants to impress upon students the value of actively making connections with the professionals they meet — something many teens are not accustomed to doing.

“The very first time they came to campus, I let them know to start networking and to be visible,” Tse said.

Madison Park Executive Director Kevin McCaskill said that while the school continually seeks practical opportunities for students, partnering with such a major employer in a growing industry is especially exciting.

“This is something we’ve been looking for, to have one of the larger health organizations to be part of Madison Park,” McCaskill told the Banner. “When you have the backing of such a major entity, it really gives credence to what we’re doing here. The students are seeing the health care professionals in their environment, seeing them in action — and they’re seeing possibilities for employment.”