Karen Galvan donned a hooded respirator with a clear face shield designed to protect the wearer against a viral outbreak.
“Go home like that to your mom, she’ll freak out,” Teba Ahmed told her teenage friend.
The two Southside Middle School eighth-graders were among 20 middle school students from around Manchester who spent a day of school vacation at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester exploring careers in health care.
Galvan said she has wanted to be a surgeon since she had heart surgery at age 6.
“I think after this field trip, I’ll actually be sure,” said the 13-year-old, who didn’t miss the opportunity for a selfie.
More employers are reaching earlier into the public schools to stimulate students’ interests in careers and cultivate the next generation of workers.
Students at Monday’s program could choose from a dozen stations, many offering hands-on exhibits. They could wrap a cast around a teddy bear, explore hardened gelatin and Metamucil with an ultrasound machine or play the game of “Operation” to test the steadiness of their hands.
“See all the cool stuff that you can do,” said Dr. Pamela Hofley, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
“If you don’t like blood and sick people, there’s other cool roles,” Hofley said in an interview. They include careers in finance, computers and managing facilities.
Students can start drawing a paycheck in high school as Dartmouth-Hitchcock interns, said Jenny Macaulay, workforce strategy manager at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
The health care provider also offers paid apprenticeships, giving students a leg up on a career, along with college credit.
“I think middle school is ultimately important to start to be exposed to different career pathways,” Macaulay said.
Some students were shifting their career goals thanks to the experience.
Bozena Hrynyk, an eighth-grader from Hillside Middle School, said she came to the event interested in dermatology, but now “I’m going to think maybe about some other stuff with nursing.”
Student Tavon Whitted said he was interested in a career in law enforcement.
“My real goal is to make the NBA,” said the Hillside eighth-grader.
As far as the health care day, Whitted said: “I guess it didn’t really help toward my career.”
The event is part of a program with the city’s four middle schools, the Granite YMCA and GEAR UP New Hampshire. GEAR, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, uses federal funds to prepare middle-school students for post-secondary education and the military.
The program is offering a week’s worth of exploring careers with about 50 students attending one or more events. Tuesday will focus on the arts, followed by hospitality and tourism on Wednesday and public service on Thursday. On Friday, students will take a State House tour and meet with college planners.
Two brothers who escaped war-torn Syria and are now settled in Manchester checked out the demonstrations on a school vacation day they otherwise would have spent swimming indoors.
Older brother Mouayad Al Abrash, an eighth-grader at Parkside, said the hands-on exhibits were better than a typical day in class.
“You didn’t sit in a classroom listening to the teacher telling you stuff,” he said.
Said his younger brother, Muhannad: “You didn’t have homework.”
What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.