By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – About 40 young people growing up in some of Philadelphia’s toughest neighborhoods, many of whom may have thought they had no chance of getting a good job or a good education, graduated today from the St. Christopher’s Hospital “Health Tech” program.

The mentoring program helps economically at-risk students graduate from high school and to be prepared for work or post-secondary education by working with doctors, nurses, and allied health care professionals.

One of them is 18-year-old Heidy Nunez-Perez (standing at left below), who just graduated from Olney High.

‘I know that I want to be in health care because i like to find out reasons why people are sick and find out what cures are out there,” she told KYW Newsradio today.

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graduation health tech 2 shot tawa St. Christophers Hospital Gives 40 Philadelphia Students A Career Head Start

“It’s wonderful, because you get to experience everything the adults experience — it’s a taste of the real world,” says Olney High junior Brieanna Richards (at microphone in photo), who has been mentored in the dental and child life programs.

One of the “Health Tech” success stories is Johnny Michel, a 1997 graduate who today recalled witnessing firsthand in an operating room at St. Christopher’s a doctor who was leading by example:

“I remember seeing Dr. Russo — he was a cardiac surgeon.  He had his game face on.  It was a serious day.”

And Michel says that a four-year-old boy was saved that day.

“The nurses and doctors were remarkable in their care and dedication.  They made me want to be a better person.  It was from that point on that I realized that I wanted to be in the health care profession,” he told today’s assembly.

Michel went on to graduate from Temple University and Thomas Jefferson University and now works for the University of Pennsylvania in the radiation oncology department.

Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060

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