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Lowcountry Students Get Up-Close Look at Healthcare Careers

April 30, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

Lowcountry Students Get Up-Close Look at Healthcare Careers image

Graduation candidates eager to explore jobs in healthcare had a hands-on opportunity in recent months, as Lowcountry Acceleration Academy (LAA) and YWCA Greater Charleston teamed up to bring them face-to-face with people who have built their career paths around helping others. 

SheStrong is an ongoing YWCA program for high school students who seek to engage with their communities and develop as leaders and changemakers. Supported by a $25,000 grant from Trident Health and its parent company, HCA Healthcare, the YWCA teamed up with LAA to offer graduation candidates a rare opportunity to explore careers in healthcare. 

All the GCs emerged with a clearer sense of purpose and plans to study a variety of healthcare disciplines in college. “I’m definitely going to college,” said Shay Grant, 17, who recently earned her diploma at LAA. 

Shay and other students who successfully completed the new 8-month program were recently celebrated at a graduation ceremony held at the North Charleston, SC, academy. 

“It has been our pleasure and an honor to partner with the YWCA and Lowcountry Acceleration Academy in the SheStrong Program and helping give young students an opportunity to experience healthcare,” Rod Whiting, director of communications and community engagement for Trident Health, said before the ceremony began. “We all recognize, especially in terms of the healthcare needs of our country, especially with an aging population, we do need that new generation of workers in healthcare.”

The South Carolina program graduates were Malayjah Gathers of North Charleston, David Mouzone of Dorchester, Evyn Wright of Moncks Corner, Max Hallman of West Ashley, and Summerville’s Shay Grant, Isabella Castle and Zy Mazyck. 

Shay Grant, Bria Alson, CJ Gathers-1

Shay Grant, Bria Alston and CJ Gathers

Shay said she emerged from the program with an ambition to study nursing in college and work with premature and seriously ill babies in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. “I was like, ‘Okay, I could do this. I love babies.’ ” 

The YWCA focuses its efforts on empowering women and eradicating racism, and it made SheStrong available for LAA students who identify as female and for their allies. One of them was David, a young Black man who had the opportunity to job-shadow with a Black male surgeon. 

Bria Alston, David Mouzone, CJ Gathers

Bria Alston, David Mouzone and CJ Gathers

“I’ve learned a lot about the medical field and I’ve learned about myself and what I’m passionate about, which is helping people and fixing them,” said David. After earning his high school diploma at LAA, he plans to enroll at Trident Technical College to earn an associate’s degree as a surgical technician, then move on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology and move on to medical school. 

“Thirteen years of work ahead of me,” he said. “It’s something I love, so I think I’m good. Find something you love and it will never feel like work.” 

LAA educators said SheStrong invites graduation candidates to move beyond ideas about healthcare based mostly on what they had seen in movies and on TV. During the program, professionals working in the field came to the academy to give in-depth looks at career paths including such familiar roles as doctors and nurses, to more specialized roles including chiropractors, healthcare assistants and technicians, and administrators and supply chain managers.

“You have a huge leg up when you can experience what a job is as compared to what you think it is,” said LAA Assistant Director Bria Alston. Academy career coach Quentin Morrison said the program allowed them to “be realistic and understand what it’s going to take.” 

“They are going to ask about money, which is understandable,” Morrison added. “But I try to make them understand that even if the money is good, they’re not going to stick with a job if they don’t enjoy it.” 

A highlight of the program came when participants donned blue scrubs and got comprehensive tours of Trident Hospital in North Charleston and its sister hospital, Summerville Medical Center. They also got to shadow professionals in the healthcare fields of their choice as they performed their daily duties. 

Bria Alson, Malayjah Gathers, GC Gathers

Bria Alston, Malayjah Gathers and CJ Gathers

Malayjah said she was surprised to learn about the complex web of facilities and responsibilities inside the hospitals. “I always thought it was just the doctors but it’s not,” she said. “It all starts at the bottom with supplies” — ranging from items as basic as cotton swabs, IV needles and bedding to high-tech diagnostic equipment and surgical suites. “That was mind-blowing to me.” 

Malayjah said the idea of doing hands-on work with patients and their bodies doesn’t appeal to her, but she loves the idea of using sophisticated diagnostic equipment to help chart their journey to health. She also plans to begin her medical coursework at Trident Tech. “I want to become a radiology technician.” 

At the graduation ceremony, program participants presented their career roadmaps and spoke about the paths they plan to take beyond graduation into their chosen healthcare fields. Regardless of their path, they will make a difference in their adult lives — and YWCA and Trident Health officials say they hope to continue and expand the SheStrong initiative after this successful pilot project.  

“I’m immensely proud … These are some really, really resilient young adults,” YWCA Programs Director CJ Gathers told members of the inaugural SheStrong healthcare class. “You all are not children. You are young adults who are going to make your mark on the world.”


Top Photo: (From left) Evyn Wright, Max Hallman, Quentin Morrison, David Mouzone, Rod Whiting, Shay Grant, Bria Alston, Malayjah Gathers, CJ Gathers.

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