Graduation celebration: From left, Natasha Pena, Stephanie Leon, retired East Boston High School teacher Christy Zarrella, Marta Guerrero, Henriquez and Terence Harrell, a 2004 ProTech graduate and MGH Pharmacy staff member
From the time that it was founded nearly 200 years ago, the MGH has been committed to serving its community. Today that commitment continues through the work of the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI), directed by Joan Quinlan. CCHI recently celebrated a group of 150 students participating in two of its Youth Programs -- the Summer Jobs and ProTech programs -- at an Aug. 18 graduation ceremony in the O'Keeffe Auditorium. Speakers included Galia Wise, CCHI Youth Programs manager; Jeff Davis, senior vice president of MGH Human Resources; Valerie Buckley Farias, RN, manager of Anesthesia Supply and Technician Support; Erik R. Henriquez, a ProTech graduate; Nicole Polenca, a Summer Jobs graduate; and keynote speaker Jabbar R. Bennett, PhD, assistant dean of Recruiting and Professional Development for Brown University Graduate School.
The program began with Wise welcoming students to the event and congratulating them on their achievements. Davis then spoke on behalf of the hospital. "All of you graduating today have traded in your summers for life at a busy academic medical center. Thank you for giving so much of your time and energy to the MGH. You are all now officially 'MGHers.'" Davis also thanked the hospital managers who -- with a passion and commitment to helping young people -- have supported the CCHI programs.
Buckley Farias, a professional mentor to young adults in the Summer Jobs Program since 2005, shared how she started along her career path as a candy striper at a hospital in Dorchester, where she grew up. That experience inspired her to apply to nursing school, and today, as an MGH employee for more than 30 years, she says she is thrilled to be able to be a part of the Summer Jobs Program and offer the students the same types of opportunities that helped her realize her own professional goals.
Attendees also heard from Henriquez and Polenca. A graduate of East Boston High School, Henriquez will attend the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in the fall. The opportunity to work at the "best hospital in the world" through the ProTech Program helped him realize that he wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy, he said. "In the Pharmacy Department, everyone was so helpful. I didn't feel like I was going to work every day. That confirmed for me that I wanted to be a pharmacist. ProTech gave me this experience and opened so many doors to me. I probably would be a different person and working for a paycheck rather than enjoying the experience. I learned a lot about communication and customer service, which are important skills to have. I'm sad to leave the hospital, but I'm also excited to start a new chapter in life."
Polenca, a graduate of the James P. Timilty Middle School, then introduced Bennett, who encouraged young and mature audience members alike. He shared with them the acronym H.O.P.E., which stands for Hard work, Optimism, Persistence and Empowerment. He capped off his rousing presentation by reading "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess -- a book he said has provided him with inspiration and encouragement.
The event culminated with a presentation of certificates to the graduates and a reception in the Bulfinch Tents. For more information about the MGH Youth Programs, access www.massgeneral.org/cchi.