Since June 17, 2019, high school senior Kao Chang has been interning with the Neurosurgery Department, working 20 hours a week. She is part of the Step Up Youth Employment Program that connects Minneapolis youth ages 14-21 with internships at nearly 200 companies, public agencies and nonprofit organizations across 17 industries. “I’ve been doing Step Up since my freshman year,” said Chang. “If I were to apply for a similar internship outside the program, I would have slim chance of getting it. Step Up has opened doors for me, allowing me to have different jobs instead of flipping burgers.”

Thanks to Step Up, Chang worked as a medical administration intern last summer at Hennepin Health in Minneapolis. During her current internship with the Neurosurgery Department, she is performing administrative tasks such as helping ensure that physicians’ schedules have no conflicts.

Doing whatever she can
“Kao is really quick at learning and understanding department processes and is more than willing to help out wherever she can,” said Claire Graham, Neurosurgery Department Administrative Supervisor/Executive Administrative Assistant. “I am hoping to have her come back as a student employee if she decides to attend the U.”

Chang is also assisting with NeuroSafe 2019, a national symposium dedicated to improving neurosurgical quality and safety. In its fourth year, the symposium presented by the Neurosurgery Department will be held August 8-9, just before Chang’s internship ends on the 17th. “It will be awesome to be around well-respected professionals in neurosurgery,” she said.

Chang aspires to be a surgical nurse who works in the operating room. She is inspired by two sisters in nursing and by her mother who has suffered from various medical conditions throughout her life. As the youngest of seven children, Chang was often called upon to interpret what medical professionals were telling her mother about her conditions. Head of a Hmong family, her mother spoke no English.

Out of her comfort zone
Not afraid to get out of her comfort zone, Chang recently observed a spinal procedure performed by neurosurgeons Daniel Guillaume, MS, MD, and Ann Parr, MD, PhD, of the Neurosurgery Department. “It was challenging, but interesting,” she said. Chang hopes to be able to observe a few more procedures before mid-August, when her assignment with the department ends.

“Having someone so young be so mature and truly interested in neurosurgery is a very welcome surprise,” noted Graham. “The medical field would be very lucky to have her, whatever field she chooses.” 

In her spare time, Chang loves to take photographs of family and friends. She is also captain of the volleyball team at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, working with players on their physical condition and coordinating fundraising events to help finance team outings and trips.

Chang will graduate in June 2020 and is currently involved with the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. PSEO is a state-funded program for qualified students to help them meet high school graduation requirements while earning college credits. Chang plans to transfer those credits to a four-year institution to acquire her nursing degree.

About Step Up

Step Up is a partnership of the City of Minneapolis, AchieveMpls, CareerForce Minneapolis and Project for Pride in Living. The Step Up internship program empowers young people to create bright futures through professional skills training, on-the-job experience and connections with adult mentors who can help them achieve their career goals.

The program helps employers diversify their workforce and build a strong base of young, skilled workers who can help keep the regional economy strong and vibrant.

Since 2003, Step Up has created more than 27,000 high-quality internship opportunities for Minneapolis youth, equipping them to step up, prepare for the future and become our next business and civic leaders.

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