Youth Apprentice Program Celebrates Class of 2018

Jun 7, 2018

Around 4.5 million students throughout the country will graduate high school this year. Only 24 of them will also have youth apprentice certificates. Those students belong to Rochester Regional Health’s Youth Apprentice Program (YAP, said Y-A-P).

The YAP’s Class of 2018 received certificates of completion during a graduation ceremony on May 30, in Rochester General Hospital’s Twig Auditorium.

See photos from the graduation ceremony.

Established in 1989, the YAP – formerly the School-to-Work Program – gives Rochester City School District students the opportunity to gain real-world healthcare experience through a two-year paid internship at Rochester General Hospital. Over the last 29 years, the program, including the student’s pay, has been sustained solely by the generosity of almost 800 donors.

“My personal dream was that someday some of the YAP students would become care providers who take care of my patients,” said Rick Constantino, MD, a primary care physician and one of the program’s co-founders. “And not only have I seen that happen, I’ve seen them take care of me.”

Constantino emphasized the extent of the program’s impact on the community and its function within the health system using the refrain “even more” in his ceremony remarks. For example, even more than an internship, the YAP is a community resource. Much of the city’s youth grows up around violence, crime and drugs, often putting them in troubling and sometimes dangerous situations. As a result, many fail to complete their secondary education, which leads to limited employment options, perpetuating a cycle of poverty that plagues the city’s neighborhoods. The YAP is effectively disrupting that cycle. To date, 100 percent of the YAP’s alumni have graduated high school and been accepted to a two- or four-year college.

Ceremony attendees were able to “meet” some of this year’s YAP graduates thanks to student reflections throughout the program. Many acknowledged the skills they acquired, the lessons they learned and their growth as people. And all of them expressed their gratitude to YAP Director Kenneth Frazier.

One of the most poignant reflections came from Safiya Gazali of East High School. Gazali was born in Somalia’s war-torn capital, Mogadishu. When she was eight years old, her mother suffered a broken arm, after being knocked down by someone running from gun fire. They went to a nearby hospital, but were turned away because the injury wasn’t severe enough to warrant immediate care.

Not being able to do anything to alleviate her mother’s pain became the catalyst in Gazali’s pursuit of a medical career. The YAP has not only heightened her interest in healthcare, but it has also emboldened her to continue her education in providing care to those who need it most. She be taking her next steps this fall at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she’ll be majoring in biology.

If you are interested in learning more about or supporting the Youth Apprentice Program, please visit our Giving page or call 585.922.4800.