CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. – High school students are learning skills designed to provide a lifetime of success through a new program at Mercy Hospital Jefferson.
Pathways to Employment was introduced at Mercy Jefferson this fall as a vocational skills training program for young adults with disabilities during their last year in high school. For the first time, Mercy Jefferson is working with students from the Fox School District and NextStep for Life.
Students spend the first weeks of school learning about health care and exploring job opportunities. Following that introduction, they will interview for internships at the hospital that fit their interests and skill levels. Once a job opportunity is agreed upon, students spend the school day learning about the job while working in the selected department with the assistance of a mentor from the department where they are working.
Corey Robinson, 17, from Seckman High School, said he would like to work with the operating room staff assisting patients and their families and the social interactions that come with that job. He also has a personal connection to Mercy Jefferson.
“I’m excited to work here because my great-grandfather works here,” Corey said. “I like meeting new people with different personalities and lifestyles. It’s always interesting to hear what people have to say and the stories they have to tell.”
Sean Murphy, 19, from Fox High School said he would be happy with any job, but was hoping for something in the hospital laboratory.
“I like the lab, after the needle part. I don’t like needles,” Sean said. “I like the small setting.”
Sean and Corey participated in a summer work program in customer service for Schnucks in Arnold, said Kelsie Isom, who works in employment services for NextStep.
“This opportunity with Mercy is terrific,” she said. “We are excited that the guys can be here learning and working. It’s what we do, getting people ready for work and employed.”
Isom said she expects the program to grow and provide more opportunities for employers and potential employees.
“A lot of the school districts are learning about Pathway to Employment, so we expect to expand next year,” Isom said. “We are hoping that it becomes an interview process, just to get into the program.”
Corey said he believes he has the skills that many employers are looking for.
“I am a very visual and hands-on learner. If you show me something once or twice I can get it done,” he said.
Students work in the internship program for four to eight months or until they reach at least 80 percent proficiency in their job duties. Once that level is reached the student and NextStep begin to seek employment opportunities at Mercy or in the community.
Mercy Hospital St. Louis has participated in the Pathways program for several years and has student interns working in the pharmacy, environmental services, nutrition services, maintenance, patient transportation, imaging and supply chain.
“We are excited to introduce Pathways here at Mercy Jefferson,” said Human Resources Director Saundra Turner. “Since we became a part of Mercy and saw how the program works in St. Louis we have wanted to offer a similar opportunity for residents in Jefferson County.”
The Windsor School C-1 School District in Imperial is the lead district for the Pathways program and provides the teacher, Teresa Fey, and paraprofessional Amy Kennedy.
To find out more about Pathways to Employment call Mercy’s Manager of Disability Inclusion Services Dana Brodeur at 314-251-6273 or contact NextStep for Life at 636-282-4477.