“Mark’s Kids” Recognized as a Champion in Youth Employment
The name on the award plaque from the state of Pennsylvania reads “Hospital Ancillary Services Program.” Most people at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia don’t know the formal name, though. They just know “Mark’s Kids.”
Mark Spiller’s kids are special education students from city high schools who have been learning, helping and making Einstein Philadelphia a better place for patients for more than 40 years. The program Mark put in place at Einstein in 1975, when he was a special education teacher at Olney High School, continues to flourish under his leadership today.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation honored the program with a 2017 Champion in Youth Employment OVR Business Award.
That’s just the latest in a long string of awards and recognitions, including several from the Pennsylvania Senate.
Finding Success, Helping People
Eager to succeed, yet often frustrated in an academic setting, these special needs high school students find more than a volunteer and vocational training program here. They find confidence, job and personal skills, capability, respect for themselves and others.
Many also find a career here. Over the years, more than 40 have joined Einstein as employees. Others built on the skills they learned here to succeed in other jobs.
Each school year, about 20 high school juniors and seniors enter Einstein as volunteers. Their teachers recommend them, and Mark interviews them to select each year’s group. They rotate through four different assignments during the year, from support services like Food Services, Environmental Services and the storeroom, to patient-facing roles such as physical therapy aides, patient aides, and roles in the cancer center, mother-baby unit and other hospital units. Five mornings a week, they transport patients, organize patient charts, prepare rooms for patients, help patients with PT exercises, take samples to the lab and more.
Mark and department mentors teach them the importance of being on time, of showing up every day, of learning and taking constructive criticism, and most of all, brightening the days of patients. “I stress that no matter what role they play here, they are all helping a patient get well, go home and get back to his or her life, and they should feel good about themselves,” said Mark, who is now an Einstein employee and coordinator of the program.
More Than Medicine
“Mark has an amazing way of dealing with his students,” said Ellen Goldberg, the hospital’s Manager of Volunteers. “He has the ability to work with those who have setbacks, explain things, help them and guide them. A lot of these kids have minimal to no support at home, but they talk to Mark and to their department mentors.”
The success of Einstein’s program, the “granddaddy” of vocational programs in the Philadelphia school system, has drawn educators from schools as far away as Florida to learn how they can duplicate its results. But Ellen knows one thing can’t be duplicated elsewhere, and that is Mark Spiller and his dedication to Einstein’s mission.
“Mark is a gift to this program, a gift to these students and a gift to Einstein,” she said.