REACH At Rush Seeking Chicago Youth For Paid Internships

The healthcare and STEM fields will always have a need for professionals who can offer their expertise and creative thinking. You may be familiar with RUSH University, but what about the Rush Education and Career Hub (REACH)? REACH exposes Chicago’s underrepresented youth to careers in STEM and healthcare by offering workshops and paid internship opportunities.

True Star recently spoke with Executive Director Rukiya Curvey Johnson about what REACH has to offer. She is an advocate for helping young people create a future for themselves by introducing them to positive life experiences. Xilonen Penzado is a junior at Crane Medical Prep. To explore her interest in nursing, she completed the REACH MedSTEM Explorers (pre-internship) and MedSTEM (internship) programs.

Rukiya Curvey Johnson

TrueStar.Life: Eighty percent of all REACH programs consist of majority African-American and Latinx students. What are some of the paid work-based learning opportunities available to them?

Rukiya Curvey Johnson: We do the pre-internship. It is a six-week, paid internship. Our internships are also paid. We had to modify things for COVID, but when we’re able to fully go back to normal, we do the internships during the school year. We have a spring semester one, a winter one for college students, and a summer internship program. Those are all paid experiences. One of the things that we know is that for a lot of our students, they really need to work. We do everything possible in terms of fundraising and working with different partners across the city to identify funds to be able to pay the interns a stipend for their experiences.

TSL: While navigating the effects of COVID-19 on business operations, describe how youth programs at REACH are adjusting to the trend of remote learning and work environments.

RCJ: As a hospital, we could see pretty early on that we wouldn’t be able to have students on the floors or in departments the way they were before. For us, that meant getting students the technology that they needed. So [they’ll have] their own sets of stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs and different things so that they could follow along and still do activities at home. And then when things kind of opened up a little bit, they’d do small, in-person labs so they could still be socially distanced.

TS: What memories do have from being a part of the REACH program?

Xiolnen Penzado: When I was a pre-intern, we did a big project at the end. We had to present in front of doctors and nurses. That prepared me to know how to communicate with doctors properly and professionally. And with my groupmates, we had to work together to find issues that were on the website and present it to many doctors. It was pretty challenging and hard because it’s just patience and you have to know what you’re saying and doing. To present yourself in front of doctors is nerve-wrecking. It was a fun experience, because you really dealt with a lot of stuff. Before this program, I had no idea what nursing I wanted to get into. When I was a pre-intern, I looked into neo-natal nursing. With the babies. I was really interested in a lot of stuff. It was a lot to take in, but I got a lot out of it.

True Star readers have what it takes to make a much-needed impact on society. Check out these open opportunities at REACH.

High School Students

MedSTEM Explorers

Application Deadline: March 26

MedSTEM Pathways

Application Deadline: March 26

Writing & Study Virtual Improvement Sessions

Professional Develop Workshop Series

RU Ready Workshops

Application Assistance: February 3 and 17 at 5 p.m.


College Students

Center for Community Health Equity Summer Internship

Application Deadline: February 19

College Career Pathways (Internship)

Application Deadline: February 26

Center for Excellence on Disparities in HIV and Aging (CEDHA) Summer Internship

Application Deadline: February 7

Rush Summer Research Scholars Program

Application Deadline: February 15

RU Ready Workshops

Application Assistance: February 3 and 17 at 5 p.m.


By Marilyn Koonce, Northern Illinois University Alumna

IG: @miskoonce

Written by IVC Productions

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