Crispus Attucks high schoolers jumpstart health care careers

Two girls wearing masks and matching jackets walk down a hospital hallway ahead of health care workers.
Aileen Reyes and Chandler Harris walk down a hallway at Methodist hospital on July 12, 2022. The two are enrolled in a program that gives students a glimpse into the health care field. (Helen Rummel / Chalkbeat)

On Tuesday morning, Chandler Harris and Aileen Reyes were walking through the echoing halls of IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Wearing masks and IU Health jackets, the two high schoolers were starting their day observing medical professionals in what could be the first steps of their careers at age 16.

The two are a part of a year-old program that allows high school students to explore the health care field and even promises a job offer upon graduation. The program will guarantee them offers through IU Health as a medical assistant or patient care technician in a state where some hospitals have been short staffed.

The partnership between IU Health and Indianapolis Public Schools serves 23 students of Crispus Attucks High School. 

“Crispus Attucks sits right in the backyard,” Program Manager Andrea Russell said, referring to the proximity of the school to the hospitals involved in the program. “So, it was definitely a partnership that made sense.” 

​​Russell said the program targets students of various backgrounds interested in working in health care. Russell said it’s important to have team members patients can identify with and that represent a diverse population.

During the summer, students rotate among Methodist, Riley, and University hospitals as well as IUPUI research buildings. They apply as freshmen. The program will add 45 more students in the fall and hopes to expand even more in future years.

The program covers an array of jobs in health care from cardiology to travel nursing as well as the business side of the medical field. While many students start with a specific interest, Russell said students are often surprised when they find a field that is even more engaging.

She recalls a student who observed a neuroscience research team and found the job “felt like home” to her. 

“Students start to intentionally develop their character,” Russell said about the high schoolers. 

Russell described the program as hands-on with work-based learning. While students do not work directly with patients, they do work with cadavers, use medical equipment, and observe appointments and medical procedures.

Since the program covers many topics, Harris said she learns a new thing every day.

“Being here is like a breath of fresh air,” she said, far different from her previous job in food service.

Harris and Aileen Reyes are rising juniors at Crispus Attucks. While they were interested in different facets of the health care industry, they both say they could hone in on their passions, especially while working this summer at the hospitals. 

Even with the guarantee of a job, many students will pursue higher education after graduating. Program leaders hope the college transition will be smoother for these students after already learning in a hospital setting. Many of them will have a chance to work part time while in college if they’re interested.

Harris said she already knew she wanted to go to college, but the program helped her narrow her focus.

“Normally, people don’t know what they want to do when they’re in high school,” Harris said. 

Now, Harris said, she’s excited to continue studying forensics in hopes of starting a career as a forensics nurse.

Helen Rummel is a summer reporting intern covering education in the Indianapolis area. Contact Helen at hrummel@chalkbeat.org.

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