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Students Gain Real-World Experiences Assisting with COVID-19 Vaccinations

A work-based learning opportunity helped Burrillville High School students learn more about their career pathways.
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Photos courtesy of Burrillville High School. Used with permission.

On Saturdays, starting on Feb. 20 and ending April 10, a mix of seniors and third-year biomedical students from Burrillville High School in Harrisville, R.I., shadowed and assisted with COVID-19 vaccination efforts held at the Burrillville Middle School. The students helped with patient registration and intake, patient transportation from the parking lot to the inauguration station, scheduling follow-up appointments and drawing vaccinations from vials. They also learned about proper disposal of supplies.

Through their coursework, the students had previously learned about the COVID-19 strain and the science behind the vaccine development and its trials. Their learning completed a full circle when their biomedical instructor, Gennaro Ferraro, found this work-based learning opportunity for them. “I felt that this was a chance to get our students excited about the medical path,” he said. “Videos, diagrams and articles are great, but when you get to see it in action, that’s when it comes to life. I knew they were engaged when I saw half excitement and half fear in their eyes while volunteering. In that moment, they knew it was real for them, and it was amazing to see.”

Bailey Schiffman, a senior biomedical student and volunteer for the project, said, “Not only was I able to assist in any way I could, but I also got to speak with doctors from the University of Massachusetts and nurses who worked in COVID units. As someone who wants to be a pediatric nurse, this opportunity allowed me to learn about the medical field in a hands-on way. Being a part of the career and technical education pathways at Burrillville High School has set me up for success and allowed me to get a head start in my career field.”

“It amazes me how our students were able to take the skills they learned in their technical program and use them to impact and serve their community,” said Brooke Gatchell, Burrillville High School’s CTE coordinator and a former SkillsUSA national officer. “After the first clinic, the entire class was incredibly eager to go back week after week to help in the vaccination efforts, and the professional development they gained was priceless. This was an experience they will never forget.”

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