Pandemic Perspective: Public Health Apprentice


GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The CareerWise Colorado Modern Youth Apprenticeship program gives students three years of first-hand experience in the industry they choose.

Jack Jordan is a junior at Grand Junction High School who’s been working as an apprentice for the Mesa County Public Health Department since August.

“It’s been really cool getting to see public health perspective, so being able to respond to whatever the community needs,” said Jordan.

Jack has been working under Epidemiologist Heidi Dragoo.

“He brings a tangible, youth perspective to our work every single day and that, for me, has been a game changer,” said Dragoo.

“I really couldn’t ask for a better manager, she’s really cool and she continuously pushes me to be better,” said Jordan.

Jack is the first apprentice at Mesa County Public Health through the CareerWise program.

“The whole idea is to give on-the-job training, real-world experience to high school students starting in their junior year,” said Dragoo.

The experience gives students a taste of the workforce, including a paycheck.

“I learned that you get half a day of school and half a day of work where you get paid, which was like an A+ for me.” said Jordan.

Jack spends 15 hours per week at the health department, while still going to school full time.

“He brings great ideas, he brings what he’s been learning in school, and he applies that to his work here at mesa county public health and that is tremendously valuable, he challenges me to think about things differently in ways that I hadn’t considered,” said Dragoo, “And it’s that critical thinking, problem-solving, the really applying his skills in a new way that I think has been most valuable to us as an agency.”

Jack’s apprenticeship is focused on leadership, which is why he was named project manager of a local mural, funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Jordan said it was one of his favorite projects to be included in.

“The Colorado Discover Ability mural, which depicted public health and, really art, which was funded by CDPHE,” said Jordan.

CDPHE is the agency currently leading Colorado through this pandemic.

“He was able to see us, really, switch gears into that pandemic response mode,” said Dragoo.

Since the pandemic began, Jordan has been helping to answer the public information lines.

“Jack’s also getting trained up to help with case investigation and contact tracing so that, as we have more cases reported in Mesa County, he can help with that follow up,” said Dragoo.

Jordan’s presence is impactful for the team at the Mesa County Public Health Department.

“Truly, I think we’re better off because of having an apprentice like Jack work with us,” said Dragoo.

There are more apprentice opportunities across Western Colorado through the CareerWise program.

Learn more about the program here.

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