How a constellation of support is helping Kaila Bradford reach her dreams

Kaila Bradford is a senior at Warren Easton High School who plans to be a pediatric surgeon. She first wanted to be a doctor in the seventh grade, spurred by her best friend’s interest and the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.” But as the years went on, her focus deepened. Today, Kaila sees the medical field as a way to help others and save lives. She has a plan forward that will take her toward medical school and a set of values that guide her.  

Kaila is committed to treating all children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. 

“It’s not like we choose to get sick,” she explains. 

Kaila has a clear vision not just for the day-to-day work she will do as a doctor, but for the systems surrounding that work. 

I want to be able to help all children, but I also want to help those who don’t have the finances and the insurance that’s able to cover their health care. A lot of people aren’t able to pay for their health care. So they just continue to get sick, and eventually die faster than they should have…I just want to make healthcare free altogether. It should be a basic right to be able to get help for those who are hurt and can’t do anything about it.”

Kaila knows that empathy is key to the work.

The better doctors and nurses, or any medical professionals, are the ones who are able to appeal to the emotions of their patients. They have to be able to talk to kids and understand them on a different level, because a lot of kids are scared when they’re coming to the doctor…a lot of times, a parent doesn’t know how to comfort their kid, because if something’s really wrong, they’re scared too. So the doctor has to know how to help with that situation.”

Kalia feels she has a head start in preparing to work with young children. 

“I’m around a lot of kids because of my siblings and my cousins. So I know how to deal with them and help them. I have three little siblings and four little cousins.”

Thanks to her school, YouthForce NOLA, the New Orleans Career Center (NOCC), and LCMC health, she is getting a real head start on the medical side of her preparation, too. 

At Easton, students select a career pathway that begins their sophomore year. Kaila picked the healthcare path, which began with a “health occupations” class. Through this pathway, Kaila also had the chance to take half day classes off-campus at NOCC. There, she began a two-year program to become a certified clinical medical assistant (CMA), but fast-tracked her work through NOCC’s “medical boot camp” last summer and earned her certification early. Now, Kaila is continuing career connected learning at NOCC and will be observing in the surgical clinic at University Medical Center.

While she was earning her early certification, she was also a part of the YouthForce Internship (YFI) program, which prepares New Orleans’ public high school students for high-wage, high-demand careers. Kaila participated in YFI on weekday mornings and took NOCC’s boot camp classes in the afternoons

Through YouthForce, Kaila was part of a small cohort of students who met together virtually. In June, a YouthForce coach trained Kaila and her peers on professional and communication skills. 

I had Coach Young. He was the best. He was nice and funny–we were doing a lot of training sessions, and I’m a shy person, so he worked to get me out of my shell to be able to talk more. It really helped me with my communication skills,” Kaila explains. 

Fellows learn how to share concise stories of their skills and experiences.

“One thing that we had to do was to write something about ourselves, like an elevator pitch…and then we had to present it.” 

They practiced their pitches in small group “breakout rooms,” but Kaila’s was chosen as a model, and she was asked to deliver it to the whole group of interns. 

“I talked about what career I wanted to be in when I’m older and how I’ve been making steps towards that,” Kaila explains. “It was nerve wracking, but it was also a good experience. It helped me.”

After a month of professional skill-building exercises like these, Kaila was connected with YouthForce partner LCMC health for a paid internship. 

Kaila and four other interns were tasked with conducting informational interviews with various healthcare professionals, including, to Kaila’s delight, a pediatric surgeon. The interns designed the questions themselves and gathered the responses together for a presentation at the end of the summer.   

Her elevator pitch served her well a few months later when she was interviewing for the prestigious Posse Scholarship. She would have to share her accomplishments, which she said felt like bragging–but she knew she had to do it, and she was prepared. 

I knew everything I needed to talk about…I talked about my AP and honors classes, I talked about how I got my certification early, I did these internships,” Kaila says. 

She also got to share another big accomplishment–after earning her Medical Assistant certification, she participated in a statewide certified medical assistant competition. She won first place and was invited to compete at nationals. 

As Kaila moves through these milestones as a student and a future doctor, she says her family is behind her every step of the way. 

“They really support me,” she explains. “They’re always talking about how proud they are.” 

They have full confidence in Kaila’s vision. They make it known on social media.

“Anytime they post something,” she says, “they’ll be like ‘that’s my future pediatric surgeon.’”

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