District 214 apprenticeship benefits? Start counting!

Morgan Sanaghan wants to be an athletic trainer. Why? The Elk Grove High School senior says she loves making connections with people, including athletes and coaches. And for a trainer, she says, every day is different, offering distinct and often unique challenges.

"As an athletic trainer, I consider myself a first responder, in a way," she says. "But we get to see the athletes from the point they are injured, through rehab and then see them get back on the field."

Morgan was a junior and a student aide in the EGHS athletic training department when her supervisor, Irving Gonzalez, asked if she might be interested in becoming a Youth Apprentice in the department. Unlike an aide or intern, an apprentice is a paid position which includes on-the-job training and the opportunity to earn either industry credentials or college credit.

Morgan remembers, "I said, 'You mean I'd get to get paid and take college courses in what I want to do? Yes!'"

As a Youth Apprentice, Morgan handles basic first aid for EGHS athletes. She's been allowed to devise rehab plans for injured players, and helps teams set up for competition - including helping tape athletes before they hit the field or court.

"But I consider asking questions and learning to be my most important task, though," she says.

Her athletic trainer supervisor, Mr. Gonzalez, says, "Morgan has taken full advantage of the apprenticeship. She has been completely invested in using her time to learn and develop skills needed as an athletic trainer. Her passion for athletic training shows in her commitment, attitude and growth. I couldn't have asked for a better individual for this position."

Morgan is one of 20 seniors currently working in the District 214 Youth Apprentice program, now in its third year. After starting with paid apprenticeships within the school district, the program has expanded and now offers positions with several business partners in the community. In addition to more traditional apprenticeship areas like construction and manufacturing trades, students can work in fields as diverse as health care- including pharmacy tech, veterinary tech and certified nursing assistant options- and digital and information technology specialties like cybersecurity, multimedia and graphic arts.

"The Youth Apprenticeship program is one part of our portfolio of work-based learning experiences for students," says Dr. Lazaro Lopez, associate superintendent for teaching and learning. "The goal of all our programs is to help students in their discovery process. We've found that we have students who need to earn money while in school, to support themselves or their families - and that they might not have time to focus on their own career needs. These apprenticeships tell students: You can both earn money and focus on your future at the same time."

Committing to a yearlong apprenticeship means a unique senior year. Each apprentice spends some time on campus in traditional high school classes, but also takes dual credit classes - like Morgan's sports medicine and strength and conditioning classes, both offering credit through Eastern Illinois University. Finally, the student spends 15-20 hours a week outside school in the paid apprenticeship position.

Youth Apprentices typically begin with training in the summer before senior year. The District is recruiting current juniors for the 2022-23 apprentice program; the application deadline is Jan. 15. Apply at:

Fulfilling an apprenticeship, Dr. Lopez says, allows a student to make informed decisions about college and career paths. After working on the job, does the apprentice find they really do like the work? And in addition, of course, apprentices create relationships with businesses and mentors in their chosen careers.

Morgan has applied to nine colleges; as of early November, she says, "I'm three for three."

Her goal is a bachelor's degree in kinesiology or exercise science, and then a master's degree in the science of athletic training. Three of her applications are at universities with direct admit master's programs.

"There are so many paths and career opportunities you can try out as an apprentice," Morgan says. "It's great if you'e passionate about a particular career. You are really getting a kick start on your career."

Echoes Dr. Lopez, "Our hope is that our students aren't just graduating into jobs, but graduating into careers."

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