From left: SSJP Student President Thenicha Bruny celebrates with her father, Paul Bruny, and her Brigham mentor, Caitlyn DeCastro.

From left: SSJP Student President Thenicha Bruny celebrates with her father, Paul Bruny, and her Brigham mentor, Caitlyn DeCastro.

For Thenicha Bruny, the Student Success Jobs Program (SSJP) was much more than an after-school job — it has changed her life. As she prepares to graduate from Boston Latin Academy this month and attend the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in the fall, she reflected on how much she has grown, thanks in part to SSJP and her mentors.

“SSJP has been an opportunity to work in a professional environment, be mentored by caring, dedicated health and science professionals and take advantage of the academic supports,” Bruny said. “Because of my involvement with SSJP, I was able to have new experiences, grow personally and professionally, and build long-lasting friendships and support networks.”

A program of the Brigham’s Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE), SSJP partners with select Boston-area public high schools to match students with mentors and paid internships across the institution. The program is focused on fostering the next generation of talented, diverse health care workers.

Joined by their families, colleagues and SSJP underclassmen, this year’s seniors were honored during a graduation ceremony held at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center on June 3. The 30 graduates all received four-year scholarships from the Brigham.

During the ceremony, attendees heard from several people, including fellow students; SSJP alumnus Max Clermont, MPH, co-founder and head of policy at Data for Black Lives; keynote speaker Gezzer Ortega, MD, MPH, a research scientist and instructor in the Center for Surgery and Public Health; and Ron M. Walls, MD, FAAEM, FRCPC, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Brigham Health.

Walls said SSJP serves as a powerful engine for transformational change, not only in the lives of the graduates but also those of their families and local communities. There’s no shortage of evidence showing this, he added, noting that since 2004, 96 percent of SSJP alumni have enrolled in or graduated from college. Of those, 75 percent are majoring or have majored in health, science or medicine.

“You are our future leaders,” Walls said. “We are so proud of you and honored to have played a small role in your success.”

Thankful for the knowledge and skills that she gained during her time working in several departments at the Brigham, Bruny also acknowledged her SSJP and Brigham mentors for always guiding her toward “the bigger picture” in so many aspects of her life.

“My SAT scores have phenomenally increased, and applying to college was a breeze,” Bruny said. “I am so thankful for this network of people dedicated to helping my SSJP peers and me, and those who have invested their time into our futures. You have all inspired and motivated me throughout my time here, and I can’t wait to flourish in my career and give back to this amazing community.”

A Springboard for Success

More than 60 departments at the Brigham host SSJP interns. In a survey of SSJP alumni, more than 70 percent of program participants are first-generation college students, and more than 90 percent felt that working in a professional environment while in high school greatly assisted them in their college and career pursuits.

SSJP student Bamidele Osinubi, a senior at New Mission High School in Hyde Park, appreciated the opportunity to work at the Brigham in a lab within the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension. An aspiring medical researcher, he said what he learned in the lab will be useful to him for years to come.

“The two years I spent with SSJP have been a blessing,” Osinubi said. “The opportunity to meet adults and network with people who have been in the same position as me, as well as make friendships, will not be taken for granted.”
As Bruny looks forward to her next chapter, she’s glad to walk into the world as a different person than when she joined SSJP. During the ceremony, she declared to her fellow classmates: “We are the future.”

“Words can’t express the feeling I get looking back at how far we’ve come and how far we’re going,” Bruny said. “This room contains future doctors, engineers, lawyers, nurses, pharmacists, teachers and more. So, yes, SSJP is far more than just a job.”

SSJP is actively seeking departments and enthusiastic staff members to support its efforts. To learn more about how to become a mentor and host an SSJP intern, contact Pamela Audeh at 617-264-8740 or paudeh@bwh.harvard.edu.