Reaching Out to the Next Generation of Health and Science Leaders

Health Science LeadersOn May 9th, students from three local elementary schools – Griffin, Murchison and Sheridan – came together on the Health Science Campus for the 2013 USC Health and Science Expo, where they shared what they had learned over the past six weeks working with USC students as mentors and teachers.

Students mentored by School of Pharmacy doctoral student Melissa Agnelo won first place for their project focusing on germs and those mentored by PharmD student Jacqueline Benjamin took home second place for a project on medicine. Both winning classes were fifth graders from Murchison Elementary School.

The expo comes as the culmination of a collaboration between USC HSC students and 10 fifth-grade classes, who each presented projects for a science fair competition. Additionally, another 150 students participated in an essay contest where they were asked to write a 1 to 2-page essay about what they can do to help the environment and save the planet.

“The participating students had the opportunity to be introduced to a variety of science fields, while gaining an understanding of the scientific method and how to conduct an experiment,” explained Alan Sanchez, program specialist for HSC Community Partnerships.

“Before coming to pharmacy school, I had worked as a tutor for five years and I really missed working with students,” said Jacqueline Benjamin. “This gave me an opportunity to volunteer and help a local classroom – not only to complete a project, but to get them excited about science.”

Benjamin’s class explored the effects of various medicines on plant growth.

“The class was curious about my role as a pharmacy student and wanted to learn more about medicine, just as I am doing now,” said Benjamin. “At the Expo, my students did a great job answering the difficult concept questions the judges asked, which showed that they really had learned about the scientific process itself instead of just memorizing the facts.”

While taking home second place was a validating experience for Benjamin and her class, to her, working with the students was more rewarding than any prize.

“It was very rewarding to see the transition of the class from not being very interested in science at the beginning of my visits to wanting to become scientists towards the end,” she said.

Benjamin explains that without programs such as this, organized by USC HSC Community Partnerships, these students wouldn’t have these invaluable learning experiences.