Job shadowing program helps at-risk students

Keith Frye, 16, wants to trade his McDonald’s apron in for a surgeon’s gown.

The junior at the John K. Lazares Alternative School in Lebanon never considered a healthcare career until he job shadowed at the University of Cincinnati (UC) West Chester Hospital this past February.

“It would take some time to get it down pat, but I think I could do it if I put my mind to it,” Frye said.

Frye, who was sent to the alternative school after an altercation with another Middletown High School student, is one of six students who have been accepted into the program’s first session at the alternative school.

UC West Chester Hospital has offered a job shadowing program for four years to more than 500 students in middle school and up. Schools send as few as one student or many as 15 for up to eight weeks to the competitive program.

“It affords kids the ability to have exposure to different health care careers,” said Tom Daskalakis, UC West Chester Hospital chief operating officer. “Often students at this school are overlooked for opportunities like this.”

The school teaches about 100 students in grades 7 to 12 who are recommended by their home schools for issues like behavior, truancy, and grades. They attend classes just like a typical school, five days a week, but also programs on leadership and wellness.

“Some just don’t perform well in a typical school setting,” said Mike Bidwell, the principal at Lazares.

Each of the six alternative school students spent four hours a day for a week with a hospital employee, one-on-one, to learn about five departments. During physical therapy, Frye helped elderly patients walk. In the operating room, he watched a spinal surgery, including details from a camera inserted in the patient’s body cavity.

“The student sees what the surgeon sees,” said Daskalakis.

Doctors and patients give consent before shadowing begins. Often, the 14 schools that work with West Chester Hospital offer credit for the program.

Next year, Bidwell hopes to send more students who excel in grades, attendance and behavior to the program, multiple times a year.

“Most of these students are labeled at-risk,” said Bidwell. “This is a new endeavor for them and an awesome opportunity.”

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