It appeared to be a typical work day at the North Inland Live Well Center on Tuesday, March 1 until a group of nine “scholars” walked up to the security desk to sign in for their first day of work.
The 10th grade juniors from Del Lago Academy, where students are called scholars, are the first to participate in their school’s internship program with the Health & Human Services Agency North County Regions (HHSA). Although they had never stepped foot in the building prior to this morning and they had no idea of the specific tasks they would be completing, the scholars assembled excitedly in preparation for orientation and meeting their managers and mentors.
In support of the Live Well San Diego vision of a healthy, safe, and thriving community, HHSA signed up to be a mentor organization with recognized Live Well San Diego partner Escondido Union School District and their Del Lago Academy, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) school. HHSA program managers met several times to create a pilot program that would allow Del Lago Academy scholars to learn more about the health and human services field through meaningful learning experiences. The scholars are currently paired with staff at the North Inland Live Well Center, and over the course of the 6-week internship, will rotate through Child Welfare Services, the Family Resource Center, and the Public Health Center to learn about careers in these programs.
“It’s been a great experience so far, for both the nurses and the scholars” remarked Donna Erfe-Beltran, the Public Health Nurse serving as the mentor for scholars rotating through the Public Health Center. “The scholars are learning about the important public health work we do in the community, and the nurses are sharing about their career journeys and the rewards of the profession.”
During the first rotation, three junior interns were able to experience the many roles performed at the North Inland Public Health Center. The students joined Public Health Nurses during home visits to families with young children, and office assistants showed them their responsibilities in supporting the health center. They learned the importance of customer service as these assistants are often the first point of contact for phone and walk-in clients.
Scholars attended staff meetings and learned about Emerging Vector Borne Diseases, such as MERS, Zika, Hantavirus and West Nile Virus, from the Epidemiology and Bioterrorism Public Health Nurse. They were also paired up with the Public Health Nurse Supervisor and the Public Health Nurse Manager to understand more of their roles and responsibilities.
Although they did not know what to expect on their first day, the scholars quickly became acclimated and they are thriving in their various internship roles. They have been able to connect with their HHSA mentors and the clients they have worked with, as well as the graduate student worker, Melissa Montoya, who is completing her Master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership and coordinating the 6-week internship program for HHSA. The sessions will culminate on April 14 with brief presentations from the Del Lago Academy scholars, a keynote address from HHSA Chief Medical Officer Nick Yphantides, and a celebration of the successful partnership by all. HHSA will continue the internship program on an annual basis with Del Lago Academy’s junior scholars.
The program helps to support a thriving North County through education of tomorrow’s leaders.
Article written by Melissa Montoya, Project Coordinator, North County Regions County of San Diego HHSA
Community Service & Youth