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Pharmacy apprenticeship fills the bill for RMHS senior

Published November 14, 2023

When Isabella Ledesma was younger, she says, she wanted to go into pharmaceutical studies. “I had a passion for it,” she said. “I told my counselor, who told me I should do an apprenticeship. I asked her what an apprenticeship was—I thought District 214 only offered internships. But when she explained what the apprenticeship was, and I realized it’s something far different, I said, ‘Let me sign up!’”

Isabella, a member of the Rolling Meadows High School Class of 2024, started her apprenticeship at the Arlington Heights Walgreens pharmacy in June. She currently works three five-hour shifts per week as a pharmacy technician apprentice.

For Isabella, the apprenticeship offers everything she was seeking: a chance to try out her chosen career field, on-the-job training, work experience to add to a resumé, mentorship—and a paycheck to boot. “It’s been great because it’s given me a chance to be on the job, get my foot in, and see if I really want to do pharmacy as a career,” she said.

Isabella is one of more than 40 District 214 students who are apprentices in the current school year. 

The District is celebrating the fifth year of its apprenticeship program during National Apprenticeship Week, November 13-19.

The District 214 Center for Career Discovery team matches interested students like Isabella with opportunities for apprenticeships in 15  fields, from graphic arts to manufacturing and information technology. Apprentices are employed by local businesses and also by District 214. Students usually begin their apprenticeships in the summer, and then continue working through the following school year. They also gain high school and college credit through dual credit courses and often earn industry credentials and certifications in addition to a paycheck. 

As an apprentice, Isabella said, she does everything a pharmacy tech does: She fills prescriptions, manages customers at the drive-through window, answers phone calls, puts orders into the system. “I like communicating with the people who come in,” she said. “I love filling prescriptions; when I’m giving them the prescription I made, it makes me feel fulfilled. I hope it makes them feel better.” 

Walgreens pharmacy manager George Toben said Isabella is the third District 214 apprentice he’s worked with. “I try to give them a chance to do everything we do, with the oversight of our regular pharmacists. We get great students who are smart and problem solvers, and I think we give them a good background in the healthcare industry and a feel for how the system works,” he said. 

Isabella said the experience has “solidified my choice of doing pharmacy.” She plans to pursue her pharmacy degree after graduating from RMHS. “But this experience has also broadened my perspective,” she said. “I thought there was only one type of pharmacy. But my experience has made me consider specializing in nuclear medicine.” Nuclear pharmacists prepare and distribute materials used in a hospital’s nuclear medicine operations, including certain imaging procedures and radiation tests and treatments.

“These apprenticeships are a really great program for students like me,” she said.

Interested students may now apply for apprenticeships that begin in the summer of 2024. Applications are due by January 15, 2024. Talk to your counselor or your school’s student success coach, or visit for more information.