student interns hanging in a group

High school senior Genesis Morales thought she knew what she wanted to do with her future, but after completing a special Turner-UCLA Allied Health internship this summer her plans changed direction.

“Previously, I was interested in working in substance abuse because I know people who have dealt with that and it’s a really difficult subject,” said Morales. “But then I came here to do the internship and I realized that I’m more interested in working with children.”

The Turner-UCLA Allied Health internship was created in early 2017 when philanthropists Lauren and Robert (Bobby) Turner partnered with UCLA to give students from underserved areas exposure to allied health careers and educate them about job opportunities after graduation from high school. The program also offers them support to get into training programs, including providing scholarships.

“Our partnership with UCLA is designed to empower underserved youth and develop their potential,” said Lauren Turner. “This is an ideal collaboration and one that aligns with UCLA’s mission to provide opportunities for people from all walks of life.”

UCLA teams up with the Los Angeles Unified School District and community organizations to recruit student interns. Morales was referred by her after-school organization, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a non-profit that provides access for underserved children to leading organizations to help them plan for their futures.

“Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries in Los Angeles, and we want HOLA students to have equitable access to the myriad opportunities accompanying that growth,” said Tony Brown, CEO of HOLA. “That's what the Turner-UCLA Internship provides--it exposes kids to career paths they might never have found.”

Allied health careers include diverse fields such as respiratory therapy, nutrition and phlebotomy, areas that often to not require a bachelor’s degree. The jobs account for nearly 60 percent of the health care workforce, so the positions are in high demand, offer good wages, health insurance and other benefits.

Fourteen teens participated in the recent internship in July. They spent a week living in a dorm on the UCLA campus, attending workshops and closely following allied health professionals in more than 10 departments at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The Turner-UCLA program was free to the students.

“The students can also volunteer at UCLA during the school year to further their learning about various careers,” said Dr. Carol Mangione, director of the David Geffen School of Medicine Community Engagement Group.

For Jose Diaz, a high school junior, the internship opened  his eyes to career paths he had not thought about. He appreciated learning what education and training were required for various jobs.

“The internship was a wonderful experience,” said Diaz. “It really enlightened me and made me think about my future.”

Turner-UCLA organizers hope to expand the summer program to include up to 60 interns next year.

“We are thrilled to introduce students to the vast array of opportunities to make an impact and build a career in medicine, research and patient care,” said Dr. Kelsey Martin, dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “These teens have demonstrated a strong drive to achieve their goals, and the Turner-UCLA Internship can help them expand their horizons and build the confidence to pursue new paths.”

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