First person: Our new Geriatric Career program at Ovation Communities | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

First person: Our new Geriatric Career program at Ovation Communities


Ovation Communities has embarked on an innovative program that offers a career path to at-risk students, simultaneously addressing our growing need for health care workers to take care of our loved ones.

Our Geriatric Career Development Program, launched this summer, is now ready to welcome 20 sophomores from Milwaukee Public Schools to begin a three-year program intended to prepare them for a career in geriatrics. They will constitute the first class of what we hope will be many more, helping address challenging workforce issues, offering Milwaukee’s at-risk students a chance to succeed, and enhancing the quality of care we aspire to deliver to our community.  Everyone wins!

Through LeadingAge Wisconsin’s Research & Educational Foundation, Ovation Communities was selected as the pilot site to launch the Geriatric Career Development Program. Modeled on an incredibly successful program at The New Jewish Home in New York City, the program’s vision is to inspire youth and create the next generation of healthcare professionals. Through a combination of classroom and hands-on learning, students committing to the program for three years during grades 10 through 12 have access to:  elder mentors, intergenerational programming, targeted tutoring, literacy development, ACT prep, life skills counseling, individual coaching, elder care fundamentals, health care explorations, bereavement training and clinical skills training.

The goals of the Geriatric Career Development Program are clear and compelling.  First, it helps address critical gaps in our healthcare workforce and strengthen programs that enhance the 5-Star quality of care we currently provide. By the year 2022 the need for personal care workers is projected to increase 26.4 percent.  Yet today the average caregiver vacancy rate in Wisconsin nursing homes is at 19 percent. The program will allow us to add workforce capacity today and an opportunity for students to pursue future internships and full employment.

Second, the program will ensure at-risk students promising career paths to ensure family stability, regional vitality, and their own long-term economic mobility.  Milwaukee Public Schools 2016 graduation rate was only 60 percent. We intend to replicate New York’s now 13-year-old success rate of 99 percent of its enrollees graduating high school in four years.

And, third, the program will engage our residents and program participants by giving them meaningful roles in the lives of young individuals through mentoring and tutoring.  Our community’s elders are anxious to share of themselves and make a difference in other’s lives.  When we asked for help, 14 of our Jewish Home and Chai Point residents volunteered the first day!  Raniya Bunkley, one of our Summer Ambassadors shared the impact of our resident’s guidance: “This program has helped me have better communication, create positive bonds and relationships with residents and participants, to be attentive at all times and to respect my elders.”

Our population is aging at an increasing rate. And the need for more healthcare workers is at a critical stage and growing.  Our collective responsibility to Milwaukee’s youth to offer a pathway to graduation and a successful career is undeniable.  Our mission to provide a quality Jewish environment for our mothers and fathers, with comfort, meaning, independence and dignity must continue to be cherished and generously supported.

Michael Sattell is president and chief executive officer for Ovation Communities.

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Geriatric Career Development Program

  • Training program at Ovation Communities
  • For 20 sophomores from Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Three-year program prepares for careers in geriatrics
  • Modeled on New York City program

More information: Michael Sattell at