Both East Tampa preparatory academies formed three years ago. Both are Title One schools, receiving federal funds while serving mixed student bodies of various races and economic backgrounds, with two-thirds to three-quarters of the pupils receiving free or reduced cost lunches.
And both single-sex schools are posting tremendous improvement in student performance: all-boys Franklin saw their school wide FCAT grade jump from a D in 2012 to a B in 2013; all-girls Ferrell went from a C to an A.
Representatives of USF Health are trying to help those schools sustain their success—and show the students possible future paths—through a series of recent career days.
In addition to representatives from the Tampa Police Department, MacDill Air Force Base, local businesses and even a WWE pro wrestler, physicians, nurses, physician's assistants and researchers came from a variety of USF Health departments.
“It engages our faculty in the community, it invigorates our faculty, reminds them of why they went into what they’re doing and (they) serve as great role models for the young men and women in the area,” said Dr. Catherine Lynch.
The USF Health Associate Vice President for Women’s Health came up with the idea of putting the group of visitors together after talking to Ferrell administrators a few years ago. She feels it’s critical these young people see a future that they can realize — if they’re given the right direction at the right time.
"If you wait until you’re a junior in high school, you may have already missed some opportunities in terms of what are the classes that you need to have taken to get into colleges,” Lynch said.
And beyond college is a career.
“We want them to see the different careers, the different opportunities that await them. But, it comes with hard work — it’s not easy,” said Franklin Principal John Haley. “We want to make sure they understand what we’re preparing them to do here is going to lead them to having those doors of opportunity in education and careers open for them. But they’ve got to keep working hard.”
The students sometimes need to be shown that that there are a lot of career choices out there, but they all come with hard work.
“It really exposes them to a wide variety of different options that they have. It also lets them see the different educational goals, a lot of times they may say they want to be a doctor, but they don’t know what steps they need to take, what education they need,” said Ferrell lead teacher Ellen Truskowski.
The speakers also reminded the students that what they’re learning now could be important later.
“So when we can bring in people in the field and they can talk about the principles and the things they’re learning about right now, and then how that applies to a job you might get ten or fifteen years from now, this little piece of information right now is important and it does have value,” said Franklin lead teacher Kathy Wasserman.
The importance of education is something that Lauri Wright, a USF College of Public Health
assistant professor and registered dietitian, tried to pass along to students at Ferrell.
“Sometimes when you’re a young woman sitting in a classroom, you don’t understand ‘why do I need to know this?’ But when you give them concrete examples of how you can use this in your career and it’s not so scary, then it’s exciting that you can use that and make a difference,” Wright said.
USF Department of Pediatrics sent four residents to Ferrell. For residency director, Dr. Sharon Dabrow, bringing budding, excited doctors closer to the students’ ages shows them that they can achieve similar dreams.
“Enthusiasm breeds more enthusiasm. These students may not have ever talked to a doctor or seen a doctor outside of the hospital,” Dabrow said. “To see the residents functioning like this, and talking about their profession is so exciting for them, and can really get them motivated.”
“The thing I enjoyed the most was the enthusiasm of the girls," third year resident Fateema Turay said. “They had questions from the minute we walked in to the time the bell rang and it was time for them to walk out. They just had questions about everything.”
“For me, it’s the possibility of impacting at least one of them for the future,” according to second year resident Stephanie Smith. “If even one single girl decided to become a doctor, a pediatrician, but even just a doctor in the future, that means so much. It’s amazing.”
"When I was a student, I had mentors that pushed me into the field of pharmacy. And I really think it’s important that we go back and pull students into the field and get them to participate in the sciences and healthcare in general," Allen said.
That kind of personal story appealed to the students.
"When you hear stories behind and information coming from people who actually have the jobs, you hear what it’s actually like from personal experiences," said Franklin eighth-grader Jaelan Goodloe, who wants to become an aeronautical engineer with the United States Air Force.
And this encouragement also made a difference to Ferrell eighth grader Ariana Jerome, who's considering a career as an entertainment lawyer.
"It helps inform us about different careers and it’s good to influence to do different things and to get involved in our community," she said.
And by planting these seeds with these young people now, there's hope that one day they might grow into something great.
"Hopefully someday, some of these young men and women that we're inspiring will come be students at USF Health and perhaps someday even join the faculty here," Dr. Lynch said. "(We hope) to engage them in our community so that we can keep the best and brightest that we have here in Tampa to continue to build and grow Tampa, USF and USF Health."