A first-time event, and a partnership between the Colorado River Indian Tribes and several colleges at the University of Arizona, is exposing students to the University, and STEM - or science, technology, engineering and math - careers.
About 30 students from the "La Paz County/Colorado River Indian Tribes 4-H Program” visited the University of Arizona to learn about STEM education and health and agricultural sciences career opportunities November 18th.
The 8 to 16 year-olds from Parker, Ariz., took part in the first-time, day-long “One Health: 4-H STEM Discovery Camp” event, a Cooperative Extension 4-H program and joint effort between the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Medicine - Tucson, College of Pharmacy including the UA Southwest Environmental Health Science Center, and the College of Public Health.
Organizers say it was a joint partnership.
"The Tribe is very supportive of what we're doing here, today. They funded the drivers of the vans and the vans to bring the students to Tucson," says Debbie Pettigrew 4-H program coordinator in La Paz County.
She says the effort was important for students to learn about 'STEM', but had other significance, as well.
"We’re so excited about this event. Our goal is not only STEM education, but so these students can become familiar with the University of Arizona. The U of A becomes a familiar place – not a scary place,” Pettigrew says.
"A lot of our youth in La Paz county have never had the opportunity to come to a campus. It's exciting to be able to bring them here, and introduce them to professors and allow them to see what campus life is like, to see the students, so the first time they get here, it isn't culture shock," Pettigrew says.
"When they get here, they're going to be familiar with the campus, they're going to be familiar with different colleges and they're going to feel like they're at home, as opposed to getting here, and leaving within a couple of weeks, because they're homesick," Pettigrew says.
After some breakfast, students started their day at the College of Pharmacy, combining ingredients to make hand sanitizer.
"We're bringing students into our lab, and talking about compounding, and what pharmacists do, proper handling of medications, proper labeling. We're showing them things that are important in terms of early understanding of science, and they have fun doing it," says Dr. Theodore Tong, Associate Dean of the College of Pharmacy, Professor, and Executive Director of the Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center.
Tong goes on to say it's important to engage students this young.
"We think that young people will get on the bus to the University, get off the bus, and we'll be here to embrace them. The problem is, a lot of kids don't get on the bus, because they don't see any purpose in taking the ride," Tong says.
"The whole day prepares them. We hope they'll be able to see themselves here," Tong says.
After the College of Pharmacy visit - students headed to the Campus Agricultural Center... where they took a lunch break, then participated in some hands-on learning about dairy production in Arizona, led by Dr. Duarte Diaz. Students took a tour of the food product and safety lab, guided by Crystal Carr. Students also learned about horses with Extension Equine Experts, Ashley Wright and Dr. Betsy Green.
"Together we're merging animal science with human science and bridging that," says Dr. Gerardo Lopez, Extension Specialist in 4-H STEM Youth Development, and Assistant Professor.
"We're able to offer a more comprehensive overview of how our health - animal health and human health - is related. By providing these types of activities at the College of Pharmacy, College of Medicine, Southwest Environmental Health Science Center and at the farm - the kids are going to be able to see first-hand how the sciences relate to each other," Lopez says.
Lopez says they want the students to become familiar with *all* of the different parts of campus.
"We want the kids to be able to see themselves here," Lopez says.
"Not that they've made a decision at this point in their lives as to what they want to do, but so they can actually see themselves here. After visiting, we hope the students say 'we're comfortable here. It's not a foreign place. These are real people.' And I think by us really being able to make them feel comfortable, see us, meet us - that will break down barriers. We hope the whole experience will be imprinted in their minds, and they can think, 'The U of A is a great place to be'," Lopez says.
After visiting the Campus Agriculture Center, students returned to the University of Arizona Health Sciences Campus.
They visited the College of Medicine/College of Public Health and the Southwest Environmental Health Science Center.
Students were able to look at animal organs, and learned about human health with Agnes Attakai, Director of AzIndMed, and heard from Dr. Marti Lindsey's team at the Southwest Environmental Health Science Center.
Tribal Liasion Ingrique Salt and her team of students talked about the importance of sunscreen.
Students wrapped up with a walking tour of campus, learning about student life, university history and even hearing about vegetation surrounding them.
Parent chaperones say they enjoyed the trip, as well.
"I think this has been a great experience for the kids," says Missy Gilbert, a Parker resident, 4-H leader, and mom of three 4-H members who are 13, 12 and 9.
"Just to travel and get out of their area and experience coming to other places, and not being afraid. Also the fact that they get to learn so much being here, and the hands-on part is awesome," Gilbert says.
The experience took many people working together, Lopez says, again, including parents who came as chaperones, as well as parents who allowed and encouraged their children to get up early for the bus ride to Tucson.
"This couldn't have been possible without Dr. Theodore Tong from the College of Pharmacy, Agnes Attakai, from the College of Public Health and College of Medicine, Dr. Marti Lindsey, from the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and their teams, along with Dr. Duarte Diaz, the dairy Specialist, as well as Dr. Samuel Garcia, Food and Product Safety lab, Extension experts Dr. Betsy Green, Ashley Wright, and Joshua Moore, and everyone working together," says Lopez.