Breon Hall rushed into a conference room Monday on the first floor of the Outpatient Surgery Center at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center.
"Sorry I'm late," she said, still wearing her hair cap and medical scrubs as she took a seat. She had just come from observing a C-section in the prenatal department.
Hall, who will be a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in the Pocket next month, was one of 11 students selected out of almost 300 this year to participate in Kaiser's annual L.A.U.N.C.H. (Learn About Unlimited New Careers in Health) Summer Youth Employment Program.
The program, which began in 1968 in California, is intended to introduce 11th- and 12th-grade students and recent high school graduates to careers in the medical field.
Over eight weeks, students are assigned to different departments based on their interests from emergency to radiology to administration.
The interns rotate among departments to broaden their experience in case they discover a new interest worth pursuing, said program coordinator Cecilia Sandoval.
Martricia Donald, manager of administrative services for The Permanente Medical Group, joked that her mentee, Ayush Kumar, possibly had that change of heart Monday away from being an administrator.
"Look at him, now he's thinking, 'Ooh, I just might switch to orthopedics,' " Donald said as she watched Kumar cut off a cast he had made for a fellow intern, 16-year-old Melvin Sen.
After the removal, Kumar smiled broadly, his braces showing.
Sen was not injured, but just acted as a volunteer for the exercise. He kept the cast after it was cut off.
The students are not allowed to touch patients. Instead, they spend the majority of their time observing and learning prep work.
Earlier, Sen set up a sterile tool tray for toenail removal procedures after watching medical assistant Chris Dage.
Dage spoke highly of the program: "I remember when I interned long ago, and now I get to teach these kids the stuff I learned. It's great."
But the program offers more than just exposure to jobs in a hospital. Last week the interns gave speeches after finishing a course in public speaking. Sandoval explained that the program is meant to prepare students for all aspects of the job, and many of those skills are outside the hospital's walls.
The program has gained a lot of interest over the past two years, Sandoval said, with the number of applications doubling this year.
"More and more students want experience earlier on," she said.
Sandoval added that the pay also interests students they make $8 an hour saying Kaiser's is one of the few paid internships available for students this age, if not the only.
Some students disagree.
"I didn't even think of the pay," said intern Amaya Trejo. She already passed her test to become a certified nursing assistant and said she wants to attend UC Davis when she graduates from Monterey Trail High School.
Kumar is going to UC Berkeley in the fall to study molecular cell biology. Hall, once she gets out of her scrubs, said she wants to attend UC Berkeley as well. Sen has the same aspirations.
"They're absolutely brilliant, all of them" said the medical center's physician-in-chief Richard Isaacs. "We don't let them know it, but they're smarter than us," he said with a laugh.