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Boston students provided health care education

Shelly Runyon | 6/13/2012, 3:15 p.m.
Zazil Merdones, a senior at BPS Urban Science Academy, and West Roxbury resident, is a MGH Bicentennial...
Zazil Merdones, a senior at BPS Urban Science Academy, and West Roxbury resident, is a MGH Bicentennial Scholar at Massachusetts General Hospital. On May 3, she spoke at the Partners HealthCare college scholarships announcement. Pictured with Zazil from left to right are: Paul Reville, Massachusetts Secretary of Education; Peter Slavin, MD, president of Massachusetts General Hospital; Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools; Gary Gottlieb, MD, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare; and Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women’s and Faulkner Hospitals.

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Zazil Merdones, a senior at BPS Urban Science Academy, and West Roxbury resident, is a MGH Bicentennial Scholar at Massachusetts General Hospital. On May 3, she spoke at the Partners HealthCare college scholarships announcement. Pictured with Zazil from left to right are: Paul Reville, Massachusetts Secretary of Education; Peter Slavin, MD, president of Massachusetts General Hospital; Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools; Gary Gottlieb, MD, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare; and Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women’s and Faulkner Hospitals.

Leaders in Massachusetts health care and public schools gathered last week at Boston City Hall to announce a $10 million scholarship initiative that will impact more than 400 Boston area students who are interested in careers in health and science and are participants of the hospital youth achievement programs at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospitals. They will all receive support services during high school and college, including tutoring, mentoring and annual college scholarships.

Representatives from Partners Health Care (Partners), and its founding hospitals: Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Brigham), were in attendance as well as Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson and Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Partners created the youth achievement programs to develop interest in health care careers for local youths, and this new program will provide the support to ensure the students will be able to reach their goals after high school graduation.

Partners cites a recent study by Boston’s Private Industry Council of 2003, which found that less than half of Boston high school graduates who enrolled in college completed a two-or four-year degree within six years. The reasons, they discovered were not just financial, but also due to a lack of peer and academic support, as well as social integration on campus.

“Through our work with the MGH Bicentennial Scholars and their families,” Dr. Peter Slavin, MGH president, said, “and now going forward with these new scholarships — we hope to provide support services to young people so they can overcome challenges and barriers that may stand between them and high school and college success.”

Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women’s and Faulkner Hospitals, echoed Slavin. She said that in the 12 years since the Student Success Jobs Program — their youth achievement program — was established, she’s seen many talented and motivated BPS students enter the fields of health care and science.

“The program has transformed the lives of all who have participated,” she told a crowd. “However, the socio-economic challenges students continue to face in achieving their goals are significant, which make this multi-year commitment so important.”

Two student representatives, Taija Martin and Zazil Merdones, spoke about their experiences as part of the youth achievement programs.

Martin, a senior at Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers and a resident of Roslindale, is a participant of the Student Success Job Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She plans to attend Framingham State University in the fall and study psychology with a focus in human and cognitive behavior.

Merdones, a senior at BPS Urban Science Academy and a resident of West Roxbury, is a MGH Bicentennial Scholar at MGH. She plans to attend Fitchburg State University in the fall and study pre-nursing.

Both of these young women will receive the academic support provided by Partners, including up to $5,000 a year in scholarship money, for four years of college.

“These opportunities for young people are so important for our city,” said Menino. “The hospital programs, and now these new college scholarships from Partners can provide life-changing experiences for students and their families. Employers like these, committed institutions offer a deep resource for the young people of Boston, and these students in turn help these hospitals create a diverse, knowledgeable and committed workforce.”