With high schoolers back in the classroom this week, they probably aren’t thinking too much about internships. Those are usually reserved for college students to see if a particular field is a good fit. But those kinds of hands-on opportunities are also starting to open for high schoolers, giving them an even earlier idea of what they may want to pursue once they graduate.

What You Need To Know

  • Internships have long been a way for high school students to see if a particular field is a good fit

  • More and more medical facilities are starting to host hands-on programs for high school students, giving them an even earlier start

  • Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center hosts high school students for the "Our Stories" program, which focuses on cancer science and its various societal aspects

Seeing high schoolers in a medical research lab brings back memories for Nishat Sarker.

“I was here as a student last year and it was very exciting,” she said.

Sarker was one of the first graduates of the "Our Stories" summer intensive program at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. This past summer she was back as an intern, helping to coordinate the program.

“I think it’s more interactive and it helps people realize, rather than just being talked at you’re doing, you’re the one doing,” said Sarker.

While the 9th through 12th graders spend time in the lab, they begin the program by reading the book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, but her family was never informed of or compensated for the sale of her cells to cancer labs around the world.

“The program and the book as a whole is a collision of ethics, race and science,” said Sarker.

“We use that as a backdrop to teach students about cancer science specifically, but also about other societal impacts that cancer has,” said Dr. Jamie Smith, chief academic officer at Roswell.

Smith says "Our Stories" is just one program aimed at high schoolers, and they’re looking to go even younger.

“We know not everyone’s a lab scientist, but you don’t know if you’re a lab scientist, if that’s your passion, until you get in a lab,” said Smith. “But we also let them learn about clinical trials, or the sociology aspects, or the psychological aspects that are involved.”

“I’m definitely going into the medical field, and this helped me realize that,” said Sarker.

Sarker just started her freshman year at the University at Buffalo, pre-med, having already made important connections in the medical field before even graduating high school.

“I’ve formed amazing professional relationships that I know I can count on for the rest of my life,” she said.

If you’d like to learn more about or apply to Roswell’s programs for K-12 students, click here.