Since its inception in 1999, Tipping the Scale, a nationally recognized mentoring and advocacy program founded by Baptist Health and The Bridge Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville, has touched the lives of more than 1,700 teenagers.
The program, now in its 21st year, pairs high school students from Jacksonville’s most vulnerable neighborhoods with Baptist Health team members who volunteer as mentors.
During the school year, these students receive academic encouragement and career advice from their mentors on a weekly basis. Over the summer, the students are exposed to the fast-paced world of health care as paid employees of Baptist Health.
Kennedy Ruhe, a 2017 Paxon High School graduate and now a sophomore studying physical therapy at the University of North Florida, spent two summers working in the bustling main operating room at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. “It was an amazing job. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I came back that second summer,” said Ruhe, who cleaned surgery rooms, transported patients, and made runs to the blood bank and the microbiology lab.
“He had the same duties as our patient care technicians,” said Judy Sessions, director of Ambulatory Surgery at Baptist Jacksonville. “He always had a smile on his face, which goes hand-in-hand with good customer service.”
Cyriac Adjevi, a 2018 graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Performing Arts, followed in his older brother’s Tipping the Scale footsteps. “It was a great way to gain job experience,” said Adjevi, now studying music at Jacksonville University (JU), along with his older brother, Loic. “The first summer, I transported patients at Baptist Jacksonville. Last summer, I worked in the infusion clinic at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.”
Adjevi, an aspiring music therapist, serenaded cancer patients every day during his shift. “I played my guitar and sang songs that I thought would be beneficial to them,” he said.
Jaelyn Benyard, a second-year pharmacy student at FAMU, joined Tipping the Scale during her sophomore year at Lee High School, where she was president of her class and a member of the Mayor’s Student Advisory Board. During her final summer as a Tipping the Scale student, Benyard, who is working toward a doctorate in pharmacy, worked in the outpatient lab at Baptist Jacksonville.
“I have a lot of pharmacists in my family, including a cousin who works at Baptist Medical Center South, but my goal is to become an anesthesiologist,” said Benyard, a member of the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society. “The connections I made in Tipping the Scale, I still have to this day.”
Maxine Shoemaker, a financial analyst for Baptist, was Benyard’s mentor for four years. She arranged for the West Jacksonville teen to tour the hospital pharmacy, and introduced her to the pharmacy director.
“I can go on and on about Jaelyn,” said Shoemaker, who stays in close touch with her former mentee, even though Benyard spends most of her time in Tallahassee. “Jaelyn has a great future ahead of her. She knows what she wants and gets after it.”
Cliff Mika, a senior consultant in Operational Performance Improvement at Baptist Health, served as Ruhe’s mentor for three years. “I couldn’t have asked for a better kid,” Mika said. “I hope he got as much out of it as I did.”