Yukon Hospitals’ First Nations Health Programs Youth Internship teaches youth advocacy skills for the healthcare system and provides personal and professional development opportunities
Rhoxinae (Roxy) Grant-Bonilla warmly greets a patient walking into the lobby of Whitehorse General Hospital’s (WGH) First Nations Health Programs on a cold morning. She asks how they’re doing and offers a hot coffee or tea before connecting them with the support or service they need.
“People warm up quickly with a friendly greeting and offering,” Roxy says. “Particularly for First Nations patients, who might be reluctant to come to the hospital for care in the first place, this is an important space and first impression—just being here to talk, and more importantly, listen, helps put people at ease right away.”
Roxy joined Yukon Hospitals in September through a First Nations Health Programs Youth Internship, which offers Indigenous youth paid professional and personal development opportunities with entry level work at WGH.
In her first few months, she has helped the clinical education team with training exercises and supported materials management, First Nations Health Programs, and human resources, where she soon hopes to study and begin a career.
But before she does that, Roxy will finish her high school education.
Real work experience meant more applicable skills
Originally from Teslin, Roxy is Dakhl’awèdí Eagle/Killer Whale Clan of the Inland Tlingit, and spent her adolescent years in Whitehorse. After being bullied, and feeling pressured from challenging high school social dynamics, she dropped out in grade 10.
“My mum said, ‘well, if you’re not going to school, you’re going to work,” says Roxy.
After working a year or two at a coffee shop, she landed a job as a passenger service attendant with a local airline. It was fast-paced and challenging, but sometimes felt impersonal.
“It was a positive experience, and I enjoyed helping customers, but I wanted to help people in more meaningful ways,” Roxy says.
Knowing career opportunities could be capped without a high school diploma, Roxy resumed high school studies at the Individual Learning Centre (ILC) in Whitehorse. The ILC offers education choices for students of varying ages and abilities through self-paced, continuous courses.
It was at the ILC that Roxy met Marshal Johnson, who does community outreach and youth advocacy work across the territory for Yukon Hospitals’ First Nations Health Programs.
Inspiring youth through community outreach, advocacy and employment
Marshal teaches Indigenous Yukon youth about their rights in the health care system. He speaks at schools and youth organizations about how to access health care, and how Yukon’s hospitals and health system would benefit from more Indigenous people and perspectives. As part of his work, he also recruits for the Youth Internship Program.
After attending a presentation, Roxy asked about opportunities at the hospital. Marshal immediately saw she’d be an amazing candidate.
“Roxy had all the interpersonal and motivational skills anyone could need,” says Marshal. “She had real work experience, was driven to finish her high school education, and she was searching for an outlet to help others and her community.”
Marshal adds that Roxy’s story is a great example of how the program supports patients, interns and hospital staff alike.
“Traditional education requirements can block awesome candidates from jobs in our hospitals, so the program helps people get a solid footing to catch up,” he says. “Like any employer, we’re always in need of compassionate, dedicated and motivated people to join our team.”
Roxy agrees, and admits she had never thought an opportunity at the hospital was a possibility. She also encourages anyone interested to check out the internship program.
“Believe you’re smart enough, and don’t hold yourself back, because there are amazing supports available” says Roxy. “I always thought, ‘I could never do that,’ but I’m here, thriving, graduating high school this year, and planning to study human resources and continue to play an important role in my community and on the hospital’s team.”
Learn more about the Youth Internship Program
Yukon Hospitals is committed to including Indigenous ways of being, doing and knowing as they pertain to the past, present and future of health care.
New internships start in January and May, 2022. The program offers Indigenous youth support with resumés, interviews and everything needed to further their
professional and individual development.
To learn more about youth internship opportunities at our hospitals, please text or call Marshal Johnson at 867-332-7203 or email Marshal.Johnson@wgh.yk.ca.