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Deaf high school students working part-time at hospital

Students from Hinsdale South’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing program
earn school credit, paychecks while learning new skills

Hinsdale – Four students enrolled in Hinsdale South High School’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing program are working part-time at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital as part of a new partnership between the two organizations. The students work in various areas of the hospital, including the cafeteria, central supplies, and linen department.

Students receive school credit and earn a paycheck funded by an Illinois Department of Human Services grant. They work one-hour shifts three days a week. Because the students use sign language, a job coach from the high school works with the students at the hospital to help them communicate with hospital staff.

Tony Vermejan, the hospital’s site manager of materials, initiated the partnership between the hospital and the high school. Before coming to Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, Vermejan worked at a different hospital that hosted students from Hinsdale South’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. According to Vermejan, the arrangement benefits both parties; the hospital gets hard-working employees at no cost and the students gain valuable job skills and real-world experience.

“When I first took these students on a tour of the hospital, they weren’t aware of the variety of non-clinical positions available here,” Vermejan said. “They thought working at a hospital meant you were either a doctor or a nurse. But our employees perform an array of duties, all of which contribute to our mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ.”

Candy Butler, vocational coordinator for Hinsdale South’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, said she appreciates the hospital’s support.

“Everyone’s been open to having our students working in their departments,” Butler said. “And the students are so excited. Receiving their photo IDs from human resources was a big deal to them. They really feel like they’re part of the hospital staff when they arrive for their shifts.”

Two of the students working at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital during the 2008-09 academic year are high school juniors and the other two are enrolled in the school’s transition center in La Grange, where young adults 18 to 21 years old receive additional vocational and academic support.