Careers

Summer youth employment program yields benefits all around

More than 850 at-risk youths assisted over 14 years

Lifespan's summer youth employment program is an endeavor that gets as good as it gives.

It’s rewarding for the teens who gain work experience, career skills, and a paycheck for eight weeks during the summer. But it also enriches the Lifespan employees who teach, guide, and mentor the young workers — role models such as Betty Ferreira, manager of the central transport department at Rhode Island Hospital. The program “is near and dear to me,” she says.

Participants of the Summer Youth Employment Program
Lifespan Summer Youth participants Elijah Matthews and Xavier Rivera at Rhode Island Hospital.

Lifespan's youth employment program promotes career exploration and personal development. The program hires teens ages 16 to 19 for eight weeks of paid employment at a Lifespan hospital or in Lifespan Corporate Services. In addition to their job responsibilities, the young adults participate in workshops to learn career skills.

More than 850 at-risk teens have benefited in the 14 years of the program, says Alexis Devine, Lifespan’s manager of workforce development. Ninety percent come from urban areas, mostly from minority communities, and almost half speak two or more languages — an asset on the job, she points out.

Xavier Rivera of Providence is one of the 105 teen workers who graduated from the program at an August 17 ceremony at Rhode Island Hospital’s George Auditorium. The 18-year-old graduate of Highlander Charter School in Warren is heading to CCRI to begin general studies with hopes of transferring to a pre-med program.

Rivera says he grew up in “a health care family,” inspired by his grandmother, a nurse, and his mother, a technician who works with sleep-disorder patients. “I love helping people, and I always wanted to become a doctor,” he says, adding that his experience this summer at Rhode Island Hospital helped sharpen his focus. Now his aspiration is to be a surgeon.

Growing in humility and discipline were among the benefits of going through the program, Rivera says. In addition, “I gained a lot from the workshops with our leader, Alexis Devine. She showed us how to be more comfortable in ourselves, how to cope with stress, how to be a leader but also be a team member.”

Ferreira, Rivera’s supervisor, has 42 years of experience to draw upon when guiding the 50 “first-years” who have been working as transporters in the hospital.  And, she has something in common with them: Ferreira got her start at Rhode Island Hospital as a teenage summer worker in the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act program in the 1970s.

Participants of the Summer Youth Employment Program
Betty Ferreira, manager of central transport at Rhode Island Hospital, with members of her 2018 Summer Youth Employment team: Jason Sabrian, Chelsea Garcia-Baez, Xavier Rivera, Madelynne Dunlop and Elijah Matthews.

“For me it’s very rewarding to see them go through the program and become different people” as they meet role models, build skills, gain new friends, and grow in maturity. “By the time they leave they all want to work here. They all want to be surgeons!”

"At Lifespan, we take our investment in the community very seriously. We know we are making a difference in lives through this program," says Lisa Abbott, senior vice president, Lifespan human resources and community affairs

Teens who return for a second or third summer session are matched with jobs in keeping with their particular interests. They are placed in a variety of departments throughout Lifespan, including radiology, physical therapy, cardiology, nursing, transport, central processing, human resources, food and nutrition, and respiratory care.

A grant from Real Jobs Rhode Island helps support the career-skills program.

Lisa Abbott, senior vice president, human resources and community affairs, says the summer youth employment program is a prime example of Lifespan’s commitment to the communities it serves.

“At Lifespan, we take our investment in the community very seriously. We know we are making a difference in lives through this program. It educates young people in a work-savvy way, giving them skills that will help them succeed in the workplace.”

Abbott recently spoke with the teens, answering their questions about her work, how she made career decisions, and more. “More important are their stories, how they have overcome their challenges with grit and determination,” she said. “There is a lot of courage in that room.”