by FinePrint – The Magazine of Rowland Hall:
For 10 years and counting, Rowland Hall’s Upper School internship program has played a role in shaping the people our world needs.
Established in summer 2013 (then known as Project 12, a senior job shadow program), the summer internship program has exposed more than 150 Rowland Hall sophomores, juniors, and seniors to a variety of careers, helping them build real-world skills, explore professions, and even uncover their passions. And the program’s future continues to look bright: this summer, which marked its 10th anniversary, the program had its highest number of participants to date.
English and publications teacher Dr. Laura Johnson, known as LBJ to students, manages the internship program and sees the many benefits these opportunities provide to Rowland Hall students who are thinking about their future careers and the impact they could have.
Through our internship program, students get exposure to various professions and what going into those professions entails. They see in real time where there are gaps in our systems—medical systems, social systems, governmental systems, and so on—and consider the roles they might play in filling those gaps.—Dr. Laura Johnson, English and publications teacher, internship program manager
And while students often come to Dr. Johnson for help in finding internships that meet their interests or career goals, it can work the other way around too. This was certainly the case for now-senior Diego Ize-Cedillo, who, in spring 2023, was approached by Dr. Johnson about a new opportunity for the Rowland Hall internship program. People’s Health Clinic, a nonprofit medical clinic in Park City that provides high quality, no-cost health care to uninsured residents of Summit and Wasatch Counties, was looking for volunteer medical assistants, and because such a high percentage of the clinic’s patients speak Spanish, they wanted a fluent Spanish speaker. Many Upper School teachers, including Dr. Johnson, thought Diego, who is bilingual as well as emotionally mature, empathetic, and curious, may be the right fit for the role. And although Diego, who comes from a family of medical professionals, hadn’t considered a career in medicine, he was excited about the opportunity—especially because it would allow him to share his language skills in a way that would give back to the Park City community, where he and his family live.
“LBJ brought it to me and it was such a good fit,” said Diego. “I was like, ‘That sounds so cool.’” It would also give him the chance to learn more about People’s Health Clinic, a community resource he was shocked he hadn’t known existed until then. “It showed my ignorance,” he said.
So for three months this summer, Diego rose early to report to People’s Health Clinic at 8 am, where he’d receive his daily assignment. (Diego worked five half days each week, and though his title was volunteer medical assistant, he was paid for his work.) As an intern, Diego provided both administrative support (answering phones, scheduling appointments, notifying patients of lab results) and was trained to assist doctors by taking vitals, completing patients’ medical history questionnaires and depression/anxiety screenings, charting, and acting as a translator during appointments, among other duties. Diego said this work could be nerve-racking at times, given doctors’ seniority and knowledge, and because he knew he was responsible for providing accurate, thorough information to provide the best care to patients. “There’s this sense of accountability—real mistakes have real consequences and can affect people’s health,” he explained.
But even though the role could be intimidating, Diego also understood what an incredible opportunity it offered him to get hands-on experience in a variety of medical specialties, and to be coached by the People’s Health Clinic team. “I had great mentors who showed me how to do everything,” he said.
Beyond the hard medical skills he gained, though, what Diego may be most grateful for from his unexpected internship is how it opened his eyes to the most vulnerable in his community. “People’s Health Clinic is really trying to help a population that sometimes people choose to not see,” said Diego, despite the fact that these community members play vital roles in the tourism industry that Park City is known for. The clinic even goes beyond providing high-quality, essential medical care by helping patients find resources that support their overall well-being.
“What’s really important to the clinic are social questions: Who’s running out of food? Who needs a stable place to live? Who’s struggling with transportation?” said Diego. He saw firsthand how the clinic works to acknowledge and care for all community members as part of health care. “Empathy is essential in order to provide good quality care,” explained Diego in an internship reflection assignment. “I saw how the doctors … took the time to empathize with everyone, asking them about their living situations, food insecurity, and issues with transportation, as well as truly dedicating time and energy to finding the best course of treatment.”
Dr. Johnson said this kind of understanding about one’s ability to make the world a better place within a chosen profession is a strong takeaway for many Rowland Hall interns. “I’ve watched students become fired up to address inequities in nursing care, or to follow in their mentors’ footsteps to create a more representative democracy at the state level,” she said. “On the ground, they see the kinds of people the world needs, often in their mentors; they see the need for more such people; and they see how they can continue and further the kinds of projects they contribute to over one high school summer.”
Dr. Mairi Leining, chief executive officer of People’s Health Clinic and a Rowland Hall parent and trustee, said she’s touched by Diego’s takeaways from his summer at the clinic. “That’s the awareness that comes with working with the vulnerable population, and it speaks to how important it is to work for nonprofits addressing these needs,” she said. Dr. Leining also complimented Diego’s work, calling him an exceptional intern and praising his natural ability to connect with patients, to break down medical conversations for them, and to make them feel comfortable.
“He was responsible, dedicated to the patients and the importance of his role,” she shared. “He was able to adapt to challenging patient situations very quickly and with a maturity that I haven’t seen out of high school students in the past. It wasn’t just his Spanish skills, but his intuition in helping patients and discerning urgent from not urgent—usually you need a lot of clinical experience to know how to react to these situations.”
In turn, Diego is grateful for People’s Health Clinic’s patients and the many lessons they taught him this summer.
“The patients taught me the value of shared humanity and of realizing that we might be different—we might not go to the same schools or interact often—but in the end, everyone is human and has this essential right to health care,” he said. “In a world so polarized, this experience showed me we need to realize that divisions and differences are superficial, and creating the world we want requires a recognized shared humanity—realizing that in the end we are all human and we all have undeniable human rights. In its simplest form: we need to be kind to each other now more than ever.”
Diego expressed his gratitude to all who made this valuable internship experience possible and said he hopes to return to the clinic as a volunteer after graduating in June. Whatever lies ahead, he shared, he knows he’ll carry the experience with him and it will shape his future.
“I want people to know how grateful I am to LBJ and all the mentors at the clinic for such a unique opportunity,” said Diego. “Please, know how grateful I am for my invaluable time at the clinic, and that I left with this sense that there are such good people in this world—people who are so kind and so selfless and dedicated to others. These mentors have inspired my future professional goals. What’s more clear than ever to me is that I want to dedicate my life to doing something that helps people on the ground. I think this will be the key to a fulfilled life, and I look forward to finding out how I will help the world be a better place for everyone.” —Diego Ize-Cedillo, class of 2024