A new program through Atrium Health will provide free healthcare education and career opportunities to a small handful of local students this year.
Atrium Health recently expanded its Rise to Success program to Cleveland County and beginning this fall, eight to 10 high school seniors from the school system’s foundational nursing class will be chosen for the program through an application process.
Students will work part-time for Atrium and in return, Atrium will pay for up to three years of their education at a local community college. Tuition, textbooks, and scrubs will be covered, and they will be guaranteed employment in the health field after earning an associate degree in a health-related discipline.
Rhonda Benfield, Cleveland County Schools Career Development Coordinator, said the school system has been in discussions with Atrium for several months.
“When I told them about the number of students graduating from high school with their CNAs, they were very interested,” Benfield said. “They wanted to expand it here. They open applications to high school students who are graduating with their CNA.
Students can apply from February.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for these students,” Benfield said. “To be able to keep up with your education and all the other extra things they will need to complete their education, to have all of that covered and then secure a job, this is a great opportunity for eight senior graduates. I look forward to seeing applications open and seeing students rewarded for their work.
Lori Shafey, Atrium’s human resources consultant and a member of the workforce strategy team, said the Rise to Success program was created with a dual purpose.
“We are Charlotte’s largest employer, and we recognize that we have a responsibility to create jobs and educational opportunities in our communities where we have a footprint, but this is also a great opportunity for us to create a talent pool in different fields.”
She said they want to build a pool of qualified staff at a time when nursing shortages are impacting communities across the country.
“We’re working with the next generation of healthcare professionals,” Shafey said.
Rise to Success has been available in Mecklenburg County for three years, and through grants they are expanding throughout the greater Charlotte area, including Cleveland, Lincoln, Stanly, Union, and Cabarrus counties.
Students can apply on February 1, then selections will be made in early April. The application process involves essay questions and a recommendation from the teacher.
Shafey said they hoped to select eight to 10 students from Cleveland County.
She said it is a work-study program.
“It’s a pretty competitive program,” she says. “That covers up to three years at a local community college…and while they’re in school, they’re also hired for part-time entry-level positions.”
“They have to start at community college and work while they go to school, so it’s not for everyone,” Shafey said. “Typically, the traditional path is that you finish high school, go to university for four years, then start working. What if you go to college for four years and get a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then decide you don’t like it? With the Rise program, half of this sum is already paid and you can discover different areas of the hospital.
She added that the program also provides long-term benefits to employers.
“Everyone is very, very excited. It’s all about building pipelines right now,” Shafey said.
More information can be found on the Atrium Health website.
Rebecca Sitzes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org