The LA Unified School District (LAUSD) has made efforts to enhance the learning opportunities of rising students within the district. The district has collaborated with the Ellison Institute of Transformative Medicine to help students engage in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) and inspire the next generation of scientific leadership through hands-on experiences. 

The joint effort will connect LAUSD students with curated educational programming, scientist mentors, and state-of-the-art equipment at the Ellison Institutes’ unique cancer research facility and patient clinic in West Los Angeles. 

The three-week fellowship aims to foster a passion for science in rising high school seniors interested in oncology. This program is available to all students, but only eight received the opportunity to attend the program. Eyael Hailmariam, one of the students selected, has a passion for science that started in school but then transitioned to public health. She joined a group that studied tree deserts and health disparities.

“The other junior fellowship members I have met have been incredible, intelligent, and relatable,” she said. “The staff has also made the interactions easy as they have made a commitment to help us, and they treat other fellowship participants as equals which I am grateful for.”

Hailmariam knows this program will impact her future because she has seen what this program did for past fellowship members.

“Dr. Keyon spoke and introduced the past fellowship members who spoke about how the program either drove them to pursue their passion and dream or changed their perception and took their dream in another direction,” she said. “I think that will happen this year too, since I know I will be exposed to different fields. I have already spoken to the public health team, the clinical health team, and others. This program will be an eye-opener to the many different career paths I can take.”

Hailmariam’s interest and excitement in the program was the reaction that Dr. David Agus, founding director & CEO of the Ellison Institute, was hoping for when he introduced this program to LAUSD. 

“One of our missions was to get more kids interested in science and medicine, and the obvious way was through LAUSD. We wanted to help shape careers of the kids so they can become the next Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos in the medical field,” Agus said, noting the difficult selection process. “It is hard because there are so many quality kids with fantastic grades and accomplishments, that the decision comes down to the essays they write to us.” 

The essays the kids write must include why they want to attend the program, with many students mentioning family members with cancer and others mentioning their passion for science, which made it very difficult for Angus and his team to decide on the participants. 

Angus expects the program to expand the number of kids starting next year as they still had Covid concerns and wanted a small number of high-quality students to start everything back up. Dr. Angus and Hailmariam encourage all schools to push for students to apply for the science program as they feel it would benefit them in achieving their goals. 

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