Reading about professionals’ experience in a field may be helpful for high school students pondering their futures. Hearing directly from local leaders on the frontlines, though, can be a game-changer.
That’s exactly what a group of students at Mountain Home High School experienced over the past month as part of the Orientation to Heath Careers program, led by St. Luke’s Elmore and funded by a grant from the Southwest Idaho Area Health Education Center (AHEC).
Throughout April and into early May, health care leaders from across Elmore County met with nearly two dozen students, fueling their enthusiasm for a potential career in helping and healing people.
“I really liked all the contact that the kids had — that firsthand knowledge they heard,” said Heather Wolfley, who coordinates Mountain Home High School’s career center. “It makes things a little more accessible and more real to these kids.
“I think sometimes when we are in school, things we talk about seem very abstract and when people are talking about what they do on a day-to-day basis, it makes it more real for the students and helps them plan more for their future.”
The speaker lineup included multiple St. Luke’s Elmore employees, including nurse practitioner Michelle Pehrson and radiology and imaging services supervisor Michelle Chandler — both Mountain Home graduates — physician assistant Daniel Sorensen and social worker and mental health therapist Stephanie Brown.
Additional speakers included local dentist Dr. John Vogl and Southwest Idaho AHEC director Katrina Hoff, who hopes to expand the program in the future.
“The best part was bringing in all the different presenters because it gave exposure to kids to the different health care fields,” said Karen Brescia, who teaches health occupations at Mountain Home.
“It was very personal, not only because they talked about their field but also how they got there, what they liked about their experiences of their own, and the kids loved it. That was the best part, especially in a year when we couldn’t really have people in our classrooms.”
St. Luke’s community health coordinator Sara Hegerle organized the speakers to visit the students both virtually and safely in person, with support from Mountain Home School District and St. Luke’s information technology teams. All sessions were recorded for later educational use.
“It was an incredible experience to organize the OHC and I appreciate the partnerships that formed to produce seven different meaningful presentations that inspire students to think about the vast opportunity within health careers,” Hegerle said.
The class of 21 students — mostly juniors and seniors — had the chance to ask questions and participate in hands-on demonstrations. Several students expressed interest in becoming social workers, counselors, nurse practitioners and physicians.
“I think the kids really appreciated the willingness people had to invest in their future and to spend time with them,” Wolfley said. “I think the kids really recognized what an amazing thing that was to have those people be invested in their future and care enough to come talk to them.”
The Mountain Home High School staff is already looking forward to hosting the program again next spring and hope to be fully in person.
“I think any time kids get that support from the community it gives them that extra little boost that they might need,” Wolfley said. “For me it was very powerful to see that.”
Daniel Mediate works in the St. Luke’s Community Engagement department.