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Youth get taste of medical careers at Kaiser
Lydia Young of Manteca, one of 15 summer interns in Kaiser Permanentes Summer Youth Employment Program, stands in front one of the hospitals buildings on West Yosemite Avenue. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The last eight weeks have been a busy time for Lydia Young.

The Manteca teen-ager who just graduated last year from Connecting Waters, a charter school in Modesto, was one of 15 lucky junior and high school students from Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties who bested 150 others for an internship slot in Kaiser Permanente’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

This a program that provides students who are interested in pursuing possible health care careers a firsthand look and experience at different jobs in the medical field by working in various departments of Kaiser Permanente such as emergency, radiology, pharmacy and human resources.

As an added bonus for these selected students, their eight-week summer stint which ends today was a paid job.

Young’s assignment was in the Manteca Kaiser Permanente’s Human Resources Department. Specifically, her training was in the disability management and compliance divisions under Human Resources with disability case manager Karina Harper as her supervisor.

The summer interns were assigned in 15 different departments that included medical specialties, medical supplies, and clinical education.

But although Young’s placement was in an office setting, she also had the opportunity to be exposed in the medical area of the hospital. She was allowed to spend a day, for a total of eight hours, job-shadowing a post-partum nurse in that hospital unit. At the same time, she was able to watch mothers who just had babies.

“The babies were adorable!” Young said of that eye-opening experience, adding, “it made me consider becoming a labor and delivery nurse someday.”

She and the other summer interns also had the distinct opportunity to personally meet with Corwin Harper, senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser Permanente Valley Area, as well as with some of the hospital doctors.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Young said about the summer internship program at Kaiser.

She is so enthused about the multi-faceted experience she had in the program that she has already started telling about it to several of her friends.

Young, who will continue her studies at Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara this fall, said she actually heard about the program by accident. She happens to know someone who is working for Give Every Child A Chance. One day, she asked the family friend what she was doing with some papers that she was working on. The friend told her she was looking at applications submitted for the internship program. Young then went and filled out an application, and after undergoing two sets of interviews to winnow out the lucky winners, she ended up one of the 15 who were eventually picked.

For eight straight weeks, the interns worked eight hours a day, five days a week just like any full-time job, said Chyresse Hill, Kaiser’s regional media relations specialist.

They typically have 10 interns for the SYEP program, but how many they select each year depends on how much is budgeted for it, explained Gretchen Fritz, Kaiser Permanente Administrative Services Manager who oversees the internship program for the Central Valley. This year, fortunately, they were able to accept 15 students out of the 150 applications submitted. Give Every Child a Chance was a partner this summer by helping with the initial processing which involved reviewing all the applications.

“We held three group interviews. There were so many good kids. The competition was very tight, and a lot of them were very qualified,” Fritz said of this summer’s crop of applicants.

Once the final selections were made, those who were chosen “were assigned to a department matching their interests,” Hill said.

Through extensive workshops, exercises, and team-oriented projects, the young interns learned how to prepare for a possible career in health care, she added.

Interspersed through all that were Education Days when the students learned from such topics as dressing for success, how to prepare cover letters and resumes, conflict management, diversity in the workplace, and developing effective public speaking.

The SYEP is a long-standing program of Kaiser Permanente, having been in existence since 1968, Fritz said.

Explaining the purpose behind the SYEP, Hill said, “Health care is one of the few industries that are growing in a slow economy. Many of the students who have participated in the (program) in previous years have gone on to pursue medical careers.”