Massachusetts General Hospital has a longstanding commitment to providing local youth with summer employment, partnering annually with the Boston Mayor’s Summer Jobs program. We are pleased to announce that the Mass General was named the number-one employer of high school students in Boston for 2021.

Under ordinary circumstances, young people ages 16 to 18 come to work in various departments on the hospital’s main campus for a six-week period, gaining valuable paid work experience and exposure to a variety of careers in health care. But, for the second summer in a row, COVID-19 safety measures necessitated remote programming. While this may have presented some unique challenges, encouraging our young people to weigh in on their desired areas of focus, along with a little creativity on the part of the Youth Program staff, resulted in a rewarding experience for 123 public school students from Boston, Chelsea and Revere. 

Core programming for all students included academic and career building sessions on financial literacy, career exploration, professional development and college preparation, as many of the students will be college-bound. This year, mental health and wellbeing were also addressed as Katia Canenguez, PhD, pediatric behavioral health psychologist and researcher, and Karima Holmes, MD, psychiatry resident, created a series of weekly workshops tailored to the emotional needs of the students.

“COVID has worsened mental health concerns that predated the pandemic for many young people in our hardest-hit communities. We prioritized discussions about mental health and wellness as well as self-help strategies as key components of the overall experience,” said Tracy Stanley, senior program manager for Mass General Youth Programs.  

The experiential portion of the program was more project based. Many students participated in a health and science curriculum where they worked alongside actual clinicians while playing the role of the physician in charge. Another group of students learned how to design and develop an app, and some students provided computer support to seniors living in the West End.  

A series of short public service announcements on public health topics such as gun violence prevention, mental health and environmental health were produced.  A message to the Mattapan community, a neighborhood with low vaccination rates, on the benefits and availability of vaccines, was particularly timely and powerful.

Reflecting on the biggest takeaway, one student said, “Taking care of oneself is something that we lack, yet it is so detrimental to our health. Summer Jobs has made me realize the importance of self care, and it is something that I am practicing before the approaching school year.” 

“Our hope was to build a sense of community for our young people, while also boosting their financial literacy skills, preparing them for college and exposing them to well-paying career pathways that align with the goal of expanding and diversifying our system’s talent pipeline,” said Christy Egun, Sr. Director of Boston Partnerships and Equity and Inclusion. “Our added focus on students’ health and well-being served to help them reclaim peace and joy after a challenging and grueling academic year.”