Respiratory Care Week Success


Sr. Francis de Sales Highschool (SFDS) Career Day

St. Francis de Sales High School (SFDS), located on the southeast side of Chicago, is a small yet mighty Catholic school. It’s led by its dedicated alumna and Principal/CEO, RoniNicole Facen, who firmly believes that excellence is intentional. The school’s identity revolves around five core values: God-centered, Student-centered, Equity, Community, and Academic Excellence.

When SFDS announced its career day, I was filled with excitement. I love my career and was eager to have the opportunity to present my journey as a Neonatal Pediatric Registered Respiratory Therapist and ECMO specialist to the high school students. Living in Chicago has its advantages, and one of them is that students can attend City Colleges of Chicago for free if they graduate from high school with a “C” average. CCC happens to offer an associate degree program in Respiratory Therapy. With generous support from my manager, Luke, and my team leader, Robin Robinson, at Christ Children’s Hospital Oaklawn campus Pediatric Respiratory Care department, I embarked on presenting my career as a Neo/Peds RT ECMO Specialist and as a graduate from the CCC RT program.

During the presentation, only one teenager had previously heard of a respiratory therapist. I used props to illustrate where RTs work and what our role entails, even walking the students through a few scenarios to give them a taste of a day in the life of an RT. We then delved into the advantages of obtaining free education and entering a high-demand career after completing an AAS in Respiratory Therapy at CCC. This route allows students to start their careers debt-free, which is especially attractive for first-generation college graduates and those seeking financial independence.

The students were engaged and asked insightful questions about my career and the educational journey required to become an RT. We also discussed opportunities for further
education nearby, such as pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a master’s degree at Rush University in Chicago. I might have even recruited some future RTs during this presentation.

The most rewarding part was conveying to these students how fulfilling a career as an RT can be, how accessible the education is, and the growing need for RTs in a rapidly expanding field of healthcare. This took place during a college and career fair in celebration of Respiratory
Care Week 2023.

This fair marked the first Career & College Fair hosted by Ms. Aaisha Muhammad, a dean at SFDS High School, but it certainly won’t be the last. Her motivation for organizing this event was the desire to offer students a chance to explore various colleges, universities, and different career paths all in one place. As students listened to various presenters, they had the opportunity to consider career paths they might not have previously thought about but can now explore with the resources provided.

Ms. Muhammad expressed her gratitude, saying, “I’m thankful for everyone who volunteered their time to inspire my students and support me in putting together a program that
hosted over 30 colleges, universities, and business professionals.” The fair was an excellent experience for me, as I had the chance to share my career with young people seeking career and college paths to success after high school. What better way to achieve that than by being an RT? I look forward to more opportunities to share the excellence of my profession as an RT

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