By Sonya Mann, Richmond Pulse
Tamajiea Videau is 16 years old, just halfway through high school, and already she can picture her future career.
“I always loved going to the doctor’s office,” Videau said. “Even if I had to get a shot. I didn’t enjoy that part, but I loved going,” she added, with a laugh.
Videau was one of eight participants in a Public Health Solutions (PHS) training and internship program, sponsored by The California Endowment and Healthy Richmond.
She described her experience to a room full of family and friends during a graduation ceremony last week at the Richmond Public Library.
Amid shiny balloons and cheers from the audience, the De Anza High School’s Health Academy students celebrated their summer accomplishments as interns at public health institutions in Richmond. Each student had a chance to speak during the ceremony about the experience and how it had shaped their views of themselves, their futures and the future of Richmond.
PHS is designed for youth ages 14-19 from communities that are most affected by health inequities. The paid internship program provides an introduction to public health as a career.
Thanks to the program, Videau was able to intern with LifeLong Medical Care on Macdonald Avenue in Richmond and observe nurses in action and working with patients directly. She said that this close interaction with health care professionals gave her even more confidence that she’d be happy in the field as a registered nurse or doctor.
Videau said she enjoyed connecting with the clinic’s visitors and learning about their lives.
“It inspired me to hear stories from people in the community and learn about who they are,” she said with a tender smile as she recalled the people she’d met. “Some of them are elderly and they’ve spent their whole lives in Richmond.”
Beyond the personal connections, Videau said she also learned a lot more about the health disparities among people of all ages and backgrounds.
“Usually you just hear about African-Americans and white people. But there are all kinds of issues,” she said.
Another of the participants, Jefrie Constantino agreed that the internship was a great way to see what a future career in the field would be like—and for him it also reinforced his ambitions.
The 16 year old, soon to be junior in high school, interned with the HIV/AIDS program run by Contra Costa Health Services.
“They say this is a hard city to work in,” Constantino said of his experience in Richmond. “The mental problems are so bad here. I really want to help.”
Through the internship, Constantino interviewed a psychologist who works with the HIV/AIDS program about what a future in the field might look like. Constantino said that the experience boosted his confidence, especially in terms of public speaking and community outreach. He was particularly impressed with his supervisors’ efforts to engage the community around them, and felt inspired to be more outgoing in his own life.
The program’s sponsors partnered with other local groups to organize the internship opportunities for De Anza High School’s Health Academy students and designed it with the aim of providing students with professional experience in the public health field. But, another benefit for these 16-year-old incoming juniors who will soon be applying to colleges, is that the internship will look good on their applications—increasing the likelihood that they get on a path towards these careers. Steven Thomas, director of the De Anza Health Academy, explained to assembled parents and friends that while it’s good to have an internship on the resume he hopes that the experience they take away goes beyond what can be put on paper.
“Whatever they learn through the program is something that they need to take back to the community,” Thomas said.