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Harvard School of Public Health makes donation to Sociedad Latina

In a model example of partnerships between the Longwood Medical Area and the Mission Hill community, the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) donated $15,000 to Sociedad Latina's Health Careers for Youth internship program Sept. 22 in support of youth stipends.

The grant will support workforce development training for Sociedad Latina youth, and offer opportunities to learn about the health sciences and gain invaluable work experience in their own backyard. Sociedad Latina's Health Careers for Youth program places youth in research, clerical and logistics positions at a number of institutions in the Longwood Medical Area.

"This is a great opportunity for us to join you in your efforts to promote health education as well as health careers," said Bruce Smith, director of HSPH's community relations. "It's very difficult for young people to secure jobs in health careers primarily because of the lack of training. This is a step in the right direction and we will now hopefully get more young people in the field as doctors, dieticians, respiratory therapists and other positions."

The donation was marked by a ceremony attended by Sociedad Latina youth, parents, City Council President Mike Ross and State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez.

High school senior Jenness Colon, a Health Careers for Youth participant, spoke at the ceremony about the program's effect on her. "I got to meet a lot of patients who were being treated for all kinds of things," she said. "I'll never forget how happy I felt about making others feel happy."

Founded in 1996, Health Careers for Youth is Sociedad Latina's longest running program. Besides HSPH, Youth Leaders, ages 16-21, intern at Brigham & Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Joslin Diabetes Center, New England Baptist Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Children's Hospital and the Whittier Street Health Center.

"The donation from Harvard School of Public Health is very needed in these economically hard times," said Sociedad Latina Executive Director Alexandra Oliver-Dávila. "And we know that young people who are in high school and have jobs have a higher rate of graduation."

Sociedad Latina's workforce development model provides youth with a wraparound support system that enables them to explore a variety of career fields, build academic skills and achievement, and graduate college or career ready from high school. While in the program, Youth Leaders are required to participate in the Mission Possible! program, through which they are matched with college tutors and receive academic and college access support.

The Health Careers for Youth program exposes Youth Leaders to different professions and career paths through periodical job shadowing outside of internship placements. Youth Leaders also attend seminars on careers in the health sciences, network with students and alumnae pursuing these careers, and attend career panels hosted by health care professionals.