Madison Wolf ’20 creates externship program for Waggoner High School students

11th August 2020

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Students at Waggoner High School in Louisville considering a career in healthcare can thank Madison Wolf ’20 for giving them a head start.

As a workforce development intern for Trilogy Health Services last year, the organizational communication major helped to create an externship program that gives Waggoner students experience in a healthcare facility while earning a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA) certification.

Wolf designed the program based on Trilogy’s existing high school externships in Indiana and Ohio, and within the structure of the company’s Fast Track Apprenticeship Program, the largest of its kind in the U.S.

“The externship program is the first level of a student’s involvement within Trilogy and the Nurse Aide Apprentice Program,” Wolf said.

Students work up to 96 hours unpaid while entering a CNA class. After passing their state test and receiving their certification, the externship transitions to a paid internship. When they amass 144 hours, students would be eligible to be hired into a permanent position.

“During this time students would be able to work a couple days throughout the week and get some real hands-on knowledge of what they are learning in the classroom,” Wolf said. “More importantly, they would be able to become more prepared when it comes time to take the state test for their CNA license.”

The externship is thus a direct pathway to advancement in the company.

“Taken together, the externship and paid internship were basically a 20- to 24-week job interview for a full time position as a nurse’s aide,” Wolf said.

In addition to designing the structure of the externship and helping students work out their schedules, Wolf created a brochure for Trilogy recruiters that lays out different scenarios for hiring high school students, including via the externship.

Wolf, who graduated in May, credits IU Southeast with helping her hone her time management and communication skills.

“When I would first receive my syllabus, the amount of work that had to be done over the course of the semester always seemed overwhelming, so I learned how to really manage my time and stay organized,” Wolf said. “This was helpful when managing everything for the externship.”

Dr. Alexandra Sousa, assistant professor of communication, got to know Wolf and her work in three courses last semester, was impressed by her ability to blend pragmatic qualities like organization, diligence and a knack for detail with the empathy that lies at the heart of human interaction.

“She beautifully balances the need to do good work for her organization with her genuine care about the people she works with and for,” Sousa said.

Mike Eichberger, internship coach with Trilogy Health Services, was also impressed by Wolf’s blend of technical and soft skills.

“It’s pretty awesome how she went from a quiet new intern to a confident co-worker in no time,” Eichberger said. “She was able to connect and communicate with students, teachers and administrators.”

For Eichberger, that blend was the key to Wolf’s growing confidence and ultimate success at Trilogy Health Services.

For Wolf, it is the essence of organizational communication.

“Communication is assumed to be a skill that everyone possesses but I’ve learned that we fail at it much more than we realize,” Wolf said. “The courses I completed at IU Southeast taught me how to communicate effectively through written and interpersonal communication, and also taught me how to give an effective presentation, all skills that will help me to succeed in any career path I choose.”

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