High School Students Expand Professional Potential at Rogers-Brown Deer

Posted on 09/14/16 04:49:pm

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Four students from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Milwaukee have joined the staff at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer as part of their work/study program this school year. Through the nationwide network of 32 Cristo Rey schools, students receive professional work experience and defer the cost of their education by working one to two days per week at local businesses.

“We’re so excited for Rogers–Brown Deer to be a part of this program and get to know our students on a personal level,” says Carole Carter-Olkowski, academic and community engagement liaison at Rogers Memorial Hospital. “Our two high school freshmen and two sophomores are helping out in our staff development, purchasing and dietary and food services departments.”

According to staff, the Cristo Rey students and their enthusiasm have been a breath of fresh air. “They have been excellent,” says Ryan Geller, manager of culinary and nutritional services at Rogers–Brown Deer. “They have spent their first few weeks learning about Rogers and our services, along with what goes into the daily operations of a hospital.”

The students’ tasks include cost comparison, data entry, spreadsheets and invoices; filling orders; making deliveries; helping facilitate employee orientations and other administrative duties. “Often when students consider healthcare positions, they think they can only be a doctor or nurse,” says Carter-Olkowski. “But this program allows them to see the variety of positions involved in healthcare—especially the behavioral aspect—such as social work and counseling.”

Cristo Rey reports 32 percent of their 2008 graduating class have earned bachelor’s degrees, which is twice the national average for low-income students. “It’s important for us to help develop their skills, build their resumes and motivate them to attend college,” says Carter-Olkowski. “If they already have a sense of a career path they’d like to take and solid work experience, they’re more likely to finish college.”

But how do high school students prepare for these positions? In a five-week summertime business boot-camp, students receive training at Manpower, a human resource consulting firm. “Many of the students are already computer savvy,” says Carter-Olkowski. “But through Manpower, they receive additional technical classes in Excel, Word and Outlook, as well as confidentiality training through OSHA. At Rogers, they continue their training and gain lifelong skills.”

This August, Cristo Rey held a sports-inspired Draft Day, a special event where students found out which businesses they would work for. “To make sure each student has a positive experience, they complete a resume describing their interests and previous work history, and Cristo Rey matches them with an employer,” says Carter-Olkowski. “It was a really special day and we made Rogers hats and t-shirts with their graduation dates on the back.”

For Rogers, the Cristo Rey program offers a way to develop and keep valuable talent. “Next year, the students will decide if they’d like to remain at Rogers or experience a new business,” says Carter-Olkowski. “Sometimes, businesses offer their students internships or part-time positions because they’re so pleased with their work.”

Next year, four to five teams of students will also work at Rogers–Oconomowoc. “Now that more businesses in the area are participating, Cristo Rey will be able to bus students further west,” says Carter-Olkowski. “Our Oconomowoc managers have shown high interest in the program and we’re considering positions in our human resources, staff development and revenue cycle departments.”

Before officially joining the program, Brown Deer staff members were able to hear from Cristo Rey graduates who are now employed locally, as well as from employers who participated in the program last year. “It’s so inspiring to see the program keeps giving back to the kids,” says Carter-Olkowski. “The students build lasting relationships with their employers and as one of the leading behavioral health systems in the United States, I’m proud we can give back to the community in this way.”

Overall, there is a sense of excitement for what this new partnership will bring, especially among the students. “Everyone is very welcoming and take their work seriously,” says Jacki, a Cristo Rey student. “I really respect the work they do here at Rogers and I know this experience is going to be one for the books.”

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