Students trade the classroom for work one day a week as part of St. Luke's program


16-year-old Atiya Jackson and 15-year-old Desoray Madera trade the classroom for work one day a week.

"We are doing packets. We always do these for new patients," Jackson said while showing us their work.

The pair are part of the recently created "possibilities program."

15 special needs students from Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 volunteer at St. Luke's Anderson campus one day a week.

The students do everything from cafeteria clean up to clinical team support, work that comes with hazards as the pair found out when handling papers.

"It's a papercut but it stings," Jackson said.

"They come in as advocates they tell the patients that they hope they feel better," Director of HR Jenna Mooney said.

Mooney said students have a dress code and background check just like other employees. But they offer something most employees often don't: Brutal honesty and a fresh perspective.

School program supervisor Dan Cullen calls it a job embedded volunteer opportunity.

"They're getting that sense of self-worth that wow I am making a difference today," Cullen said.

"I like it here because you can learn how to clean," said Madera.

"The goal would be that we do make sure they are gainfully employed at St. Luke's or somewhere else in the Lehigh Valley," said Mooney.

The pair already learned the key to a career. If you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life.

"I like seeing patients. Seeing they're okay. Having a smile on their face mean it all to them," Jackson said.