Lawrence General Hospital welcomed the first group of 24 new high school interns from Top Notch Scholars’ Healthcare Internship Academy to the hospital Wednesday, marking a new partnership to cultivate youth interest in the health care industry while matching students with Lawrence General mentors to gain career experience.
The effort, made possible by Lawrence General Hospital President and CEO Deborah J. Wilson and Top Notch Scholars’ Founder Joanna de Peña, represents a joint desire to expose students to health care and a commitment to workforce diversity.
“Lawrence General Hospital has a proud history of helping young people in our community learn from Lawrence General mentors, build their network and gain experience in health care,” said Wilson. “While we’ve welcomed interns from area schools for a long time, this partnership with Top Notch Scholars marks the first time working with a youth leadership and development program and we couldn’t be more excited to open our doors to this enthusiastic group.”
De Peña, named a 2021 “rising star” by the Lawrence Partnership, founded Top Notch Scholars seven years ago to provide mentoring and leadership opportunities to support the dreams of local high school youth by helping them build self-esteem, healthy relationships, a spirit of inquiry and college and career awareness. De Peña first met Wilson at the 2021 Lawrence Partnership event, where the two began to talk of a partnership with Lawrence General.
“Lawrence General is a workforce leader in the community so when President Wilson approached Top Notch, we knew it was a natural fit. It just makes sense,” de Peña said.
Students will assist in various departments throughout the hospital this spring, including the Emergency Center, maternity, and pediatrics. They attend area high schools including Lawrence High, Greater Lawrence Technical School, Notre Dame Christo Rey and Central Catholic.
According to de Peña and Top Notch Scholars Vice President Jenny Alvarez, the program has already begun to pay dividends through the existing relationships students have formed with mentors including LGH Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Officer Virgilio Velez, RN, and Dr. Luis Quiel, Lawrence General’s hospitalist program director.
As de Peña explained, mentorship with Lawrence General staff members makes a career in health care a reality for students who attend Top Notch classes a mere stone’s throw from the hospital campus.
“It’s one thing to see the hospital and wonder if it’s possible, but when we bring nurses and doctors to our office speak to our kids, or our kids have the opportunity for real life experience through an internship, it becomes possible,” de Peña said.
Alvarez said Dr. Quiel had such an inspiring conversation with 16-year-old Kasdaniel Reyes that the Lawrence High student opted to enroll in the Lawrence General internship program.
“He’s had a dream to become a surgeon,” Alvarez said of Reyes. “We talk a lot about being intentional and goal setting. When we told him we had a relationship with Lawrence General and told him we could introduce him to a doctor, his eyes lit up. We introduced him to Dr. Luis Quiel and now this student’s dream became a reality.”