This article was written by Trevor Buchanan and appeared in the Malone Telegram on August 17, 2023

MALONE — Twelve students from around the area had a chance to explore the healthcare field this summer as they participated in Alice Hyde Medical Center’s (AHMC) summer youth program. The paid positions were made possible with funding from Catholic Charities and Franklin County, according to AHMC student and volunteer services manager Tina Andrews-Perry.

According to Andrews-Perry, the program is back in full swing after a scaled back version last year as the summer employment program was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

We typically host 10 to 12 students a year. These are young adults most often having their first work experience.

Tina Andrews-Perry

Andrews-Perry said she has been participating in the program for approximately ten years, and the program is a benefit for both the students involved and the hospital they serve through more than six weeks of summer.

“It’s beneficial to the hospital because it gives us some extra hands when we have summer vacations happening,” she explained. “But it’s most beneficial, in my opinion, to the young adults in our community because they have exposure to a work environment.”

Andrews-Perry said that in addition to learning about the healthcare workplace, participants learn about the expectations of the workforce, including etiquette, being on time for work, dress codes, and other workplace realities they will face moving forward in life.

She said students generally work between 23 and 28 hours a week, while some work as much as 32 hours, depending on their age. This year’s group of students is between the ages of 14 and 19. They typically work in the same department through the six weeks, with some exceptions when organizers work to find the appropriate fit for an individual participant.

The Telegram had a chance to check out the program and meet three of the students participating Wednesday during a visit to the hospital, and participants said the program, which wraps up this week, has been a valuable and eye-opening experience.

Makayla Riggs-Davis works in the rehabilitation department while on summer break from North Country Community College, and is in her second year of participation in the program. The 2022 Franklin Academy graduate said the experience has been valuable and has further encouraged her in her goal of eventually becoming a pediatrician.

“I like it. I kind of do a little bit of everything,” she said. “I help with patients, clean the rooms after the (physical therapists) are done with them, I clean the machines, I do linens, stuff like that.”

Riggs-Davis said she would encourage students interested in the participating in the program in the future to do so.

I would just say if it’s something you want to do, go for it.

Makayla Riggs-Davis

She added that feels her work in the rehabilitation department is enriching personally due to the number of people helped by physical therapy.

“It’s definitely an amazing thing, it helps out a lot of people, especially elderly people,” Riggs-Davis said.

Joelle Lamica has overseen the program for approximately 35 years, and said she has enjoyed seeing participants enter the workforce and thrive after the experience. She said the program is not limited to AHMC, but is currently comprised of 35 worksites across the county and employs 48 students. Five of the worksites are private businesses.

“It’s so rewarding. It’s so wonderful to see the turnout of young people that want to work each summer, and to see the worksites that are so willing to do more than just provide a place for students to work,” she said. “They mentor them, they really focus on teaching young people good work habits and to really teach them specific work skills. It takes special worksite and special supervisors to commit themselves to the program and to commit themselves to the amount of time it takes to really train a young person.”

She said in many cases students do not return for a second summer because they are able to find their own employment after gathering experience and building confidence in a structured summer work program, and those occasions are seen as a success.

That’s always exciting. The other thing I’ve seen over the last few years as far as a trend is each year I’m getting less of the returning students from the year before because now they have a solid work history behind them and work references. I’ve got a lot of people out there that started under the program and are now supervisors and career employees.”

Joelle Lamica

She said every effort is made to set up students for success.

“We celebrate successes, we triage problems, and we do everything in our power to help the students be successful.”

Taylor Wells participated in the program and works in financial services, and said the experience gained has been valuable.

“It’s been pretty great, it’s given me good opportunities,” she said. She said she hopes to study environmental science at the University of Vermont after graduating high school. She also encouraged others to take advantage of the summer employment opportunity.

“Definitely apply. It opens up a lot of doors and it’s nice to have on your resume,” Wells said.

Wyatt King, soon to be a sophomore at Frankin Academy, works in environmental services and is in his second summer with the program. He said his days are structured and he works to help out wherever he is needed.

“We keep ourselves busy,” he said, and added that he would like to stay on with AHMC after high school, but his ultimate goal is to go to mechanical trade school. He said the program is a good fit for him and encouraged others to get involved.

“It’s a very nice program and the people here are very nice,” King told the Telegram. “I like to socially interact with people so that’s a big bonus.”