Written by Mark Satterwhite, Director of Life & Work Connections
On May 12, six graduating high school seniors celebrated completion of the Seamless Transition through Enhanced Partnership (STEP) program at Boone Hospital Center (BHC) during which students complete their senior year of high school in an on-site internship at Boone Hospital. At the end-of-the-year celebration event hosted at BHC, each participant took the stage and talked about his experience working at the hospital. The internships are intended to help build skills for community employment – a goal shared by the six young men.
Isaac, pictured in the orange-striped shirt, is one of three graduates who has already landed a job. “I work for the Missouri Cotton Exchange,” he announced to the roomful of onlookers including parents, educators, agency representatives, and hospital staff. “In the STEP program,” he said, “I learned how to get a job; what it takes to keep a job; how to interact with coworkers; and how to keep busy during down time.”
Now three years running, the STEP program is a partnership including Columbia Public Schools (CPS), Boone Hospital Center, Alternative Community Training (ACT), Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), Missouri Department of Mental Health Central Missouri Regional Office, and Boone County Family Resources. Throughout the school year, agency partners communicate frequently during a fluid process of person-centered strategic planning and coordination. The hospital work environment and staff are remarkably inclusive, respectful and dignified, fostering growth and potential in each of the participating students. Michelle Zvanut, Vice President for Human Resources at BHC, said, “The experience is as rewarding for us, personally and professionally, as it is for the interns.”
Here’s how the partnership works:
- Boone Hospital Center provides classroom space (the “transition center”) where students start and end their days. The hospital also provides on the job internships for the students in various departments throughout the facility.
- Columbia Public Schools provides a full time teacher and a paraprofessional, who teach students in the classroom setting and serves as liaisons to hospital personnel and support staff from ACT and Boone County Family Resources. CPS also provides bus transportation to and from the hospital.
- ACT provides a Career Specialist, who assesses the strengths and abilities of student participants and helps them adjust to their internships – then, as the year’s end approached and students are demonstrating job readiness – helps them seek community-based employment. ACT also provides job coaching.
- Boone County Family Resources provides funding and back up support during the Job Preparation phase of the program, and case management services.
- Central Missouri Regional Office is also a funding source, and provides case management.
- VR provides supported employment services, vocational guidance, career counseling and support throughout the completion of the internship program and employment.
Congratulations to the six graduates: Thomas, Jesse, Isaac, Eli, Anthony and Jay. Best of luck to you in your future careers!