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GROWTH Program: Student Spotlights
Aug 11, 2020 Share

Students have entered their fifth week of internship experience in the GROWTH program (Guided Real-World Orientation and Work Training at the Hospital). The program emphasizes mentorship, professional competency and training, and health care career exploration. It aims to respond to the shortage of African American and Latinx associates in clinical and nonclinical staffing by creating a career pipeline between Benton Harbor area youth and Lakeland.

In addition to full-time work schedules, the program includes weekly listening sessions, capstone projects, professional development, presentations from numerous Lakeland departments, and additional support for success.

Recently, three GROWTH students shared about their experience in the program:

Jacky Gonzalez

Area of focus: BirthPlace

Reason for joining the program: “I’ve always been interested in the medical field and thought being a plastic surgeon would be really interesting. But I never had exposure to those things, so I thought seeing what it was like at Lakeland would be a good opportunity to learn more about health care.”

Lessons learned: “My experience at the BirthPlace has been really cool. I’ve gotten to be exposed to all kinds of aspects of health care from c-sections, natural births, and the post-partum unit.”

Support from mentors/community coaches: “My community coach reaches out makes sure I have rides to and from the internship and gives advice if I need help or have questions about college. My mentor Tammy Jerz always makes sure I’m comfortable. She’s very positive.”

What’s next for Jacky: “I would like to continue being in the medical field. I’ve realized there is not a lot of Hispanic representation in areas like the BirthPlace, so I definitely would still like to pursue something like that.”

student wearing graduation cap and gown holds diplomaSheliah Powell

Area of focus: Lakeland University

Reason for joining the program: “I heard about the program through my vocational instructor Julie Earl. As a patient I was always curious about what happens behind the scenes. I thought this internship would be a good way to broaden my view of health care.”

Lessons learned: “Being with Lakeland University means we are all over the hospital, teaching all kinds of information and working with providers in the Simulation Lab. I’ve definitely learned more about what goes on behind the scenes. As a patient, you come in and meet a doctor and leave. But from a doctor’s perspective, there is so much work that goes into how to diagnose and treat someone.”

Support from mentors/community coaches: “My mentor Shayne Taylor is super supportive. She makes sure I have what I need and am comfortable. At the same time, she still helps push me to get out of my comfort zone, be a little more open, and try new experiences.”


student dissects Jazmin Walker

Area of focus: Radiology

Reason for joining the program: “I wanted to be a traveling nurse, so when I heard about the program, I thought it would be a good way for me to see what other options are out there in the medical field.”

Lessons learned: “I learned that in the medical field there could be one thing you want to go into but there could be five other things involved with or connected to that. There are lots of options.”

Support from mentors/community coaches: “My community coach is very understanding. We just have a bond, and I know I can talk to her about anything.”

What’s next for Jazmin: “I could see myself in the medical field but want to explore more options.”

Julie Earl, community coach and vocational success manager, also shared her perspective on the program so far and her role with student support.

“I help bridge the gap between the home and the internship,” said Julie. “Students can come talk to me about anything, and I can help make sure they are able to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Julie is optimistic about the future of the program and partnership between Lakeland and the community.

“Lakeland has been amazing with providing the opportunity for students to see up close what it’s like to work full-time in health care and explore different careers,” she said. “It’s been incredibly positive. I could go on and on and about what this has meant to them.”

The GROWTH program is a collaboration among Lakeland and community organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor, YMCA, Bridge Academy, powered by Michigan Works!, Benton Harbor area schools, and Whirlpool.

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