Each weekday, 19-year-old Maritza Ortiz gets up, drops off her 2-year-old daughter at day care and then looks forward to preparing for a career in nursing.
Ortiz is one of six students from the Dolores Mission’s Jobs for a Future program studying for medical careers with 80 other students at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Most of the participants are from the South Los Angeles neighborhoods that surround the university.
Drew’s Medical Assistance Program enrolls high-risk students, those who have either dropped out of high school or come from low-income families, said program administrator Annette Caban.
This is the first year that students from Boyle Heights have taken part in the 5-year-old program, Caban said.
In addition to the jobs program, the Dolores Mission offers its Pico-Aliso neighborhood a day-care center and programs for teen-agers to get out of gangs.
Although none of the program’s students are paid during their training, they do not pay tuition, said Johanna Duarte, director of volunteer services for White Memorial Medical Center. The center selected the students from Dolores Mission and arranged for their training through the Job Training Partnership Act. Tuition is about $5,500, Caban said.
The Dolores Mission students car-pool, get dropped off by a parent or take the bus to get to their classes at Drew. Some say they will continue their education in college after they complete Drew’s program in May.
Students who have not graduated from high school take courses to complete their general education degree requirements while taking training classes to learn either front-office or back-office work.
Students who have their diplomas learn front-office work, including administration, billing, insurance, receptionist work and filing, and back-office work, including patient care, taking vital signs, drawing blood and performing some lab work.
The students get hands-on training in several departments, such as pediatrics, emergency and obstetrics/gynecology at Drew. And the Dolores Mission students have guaranteed jobs at White Memorial at the end of their training.
“They have an internship before they graduate and an externship after they graduate,” Duarte said. “They are guaranteed a job for a three-month trial period, and they must prove themselves to keep their jobs. I don’t think they’ll have a problem with that.”
Caban said graduates of the program earn $6.50 to $7 an hour.
Ortiz said she had her eye on nursing for several years. When she attended Roosevelt High School, she volunteered at White Memorial for a summer, working in several departments. “I wasn’t getting paid, but I was involved,” she said. “If you’re into a career and have the chance to experience that, you can do it.”