Sanford supports the future workforce beyond the classroom

Classrooms to Careers helps students through networking and financial assistance

A young woman in a headscarf sits outside her front door.

Every morning at five bells, you’ll find Sifa Abiya, a pharmacy technician at Sanford Health, clocking in for the day and preparing medicine for patient deliveries.

After completing the pharmacy technician diploma program at Southeast Technical College, she’s been working in this role for about three months. She said it’s part of her calling to health care and cherishes her job. But, if it wasn’t for the Classrooms to Careers program, Abiya might not be working as a pharmacy technician at Sanford.

She participated in the program while she was a senior at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Abiya said the program offered her a bird’s-eye view into health care, which motivated her to pursue that field as a career.

“I got a lot of experience in that class, which really helped me, because I had a very hard time deciding my major. It really helped me because I was so stressed,” she laughed.

“I learned about the program and was really interested. It’s a big reason why I decided to go into health care,” she added.

Classrooms to Careers 101

Allison Hutchinson is a senior career development consultant at Sanford Health and has played an integral part in bringing the 3-year-old program to life. In her role at Sanford, Hutchinson interacts with high school and middle school students around Sioux Falls, assisting them with career exploration and development.

“I like to say that I open doors and open eyes for students in health care careers,” she said.

Hutchinson explained the main goal of the program is to help students achieve their career goals by “lowering barriers and providing support and the opportunity for high school students to continue their education after high school.

“About half of the students in Classrooms to Careers are first-generation American students. And about two-thirds will be first-generation college students,” Hutchinson said.

Besides Sanford Health, four other partners have played a part in making this program come to life. These partners include the Sioux Falls School District, Southeast Technical College, the City of Sioux Falls, and First Premier Bank.

Classrooms to Careers is taught cooperatively by WHS teacher Jennifer Schelske and STC faculty. While students are still enrolled at WHS, Sanford Health pays for select dual-credit courses.

Offering these courses to students in a high school setting with a familiar teacher helps them gain confidence as learners and explore post-secondary opportunities.

Helping students live out their dreams

When asked why she believes so much in the program, tears welled in Hutchinson eyes and her voice quivered, as she said she “wants to be part of kids fulfilling their dreams.”

“Sometimes they don’t even have an idea of what that dream could be. So, Classrooms to Careers really opens their eyes to what they could achieve. I’m so grateful for our Sanford family’s commitment to offering a straightforward, supportive path for students who want to set their goals and reach them,” she said.

Hutchinson said the program is available to students at WHS. School counselors share information about the program with students who may have an interest in pursuing a technical college degree and who may benefit from additional supports offered through the program.

Hutchinson is proud to work for a company that prioritizes students and helps them achieve their goals.

“I believe so strongly in this program. We, of course, want to see every Classrooms to Careers student work at Sanford Health. We would love to have them as part of our team, but we don’t have any employment requirements attached to this opportunity.

“We’re widening their perspectives, and these opportunities are not limited to students who think they’re pursuing patient-facing health care careers, or even health care careers in general. We have many students pursuing business degrees, automotive construction, and more. It really is a support of the students and their futures,” she said.

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Posted In Community, Inclusion at Sanford, People & Culture, Sanford Stories, Scholarships and Sponsorships