On Saturday, January 21, 2023, the second session of our Saturday Academy series signaled an evolution in the program by ushering in a new element and dramatically changing the student landscape moving forward. For the first time, buses provided transportation to and from the event for 63 young learners in grades 3 through 8 from the Glendale Community Center bringing the daily total to 266 local K through 12 students in attendance. With the addition of the buses, registrations have expanded to include 112 schools throughout Utah from as far north as Logan ranging south to Cedar City. Through two events, self-reported demographics showed participants were comprised of 74% female, with 26% identifying as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC).
The day’s activities were planned by students from the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine along with volunteers from the College of Nursing in collaboration with the University of Utah student chapter of the American Chemical Society (UOUSCACS). The day’s programming began with a demonstration pairing chemistry and physics that provided plenty of explosions, which excited the young learners before leading into small group sessions with age appropriate hands-on activities. The day culminated with pizza and fresh made liquid nitrogen ice cream, along with all the toppings for students to create their own frozen dessert concoctions.
The Saturday Academy is still growing in its current format is still growing, and as with everything we do, we look at what we have done and study how to improve upon it. Moving forward, we are looking to enhance transportation through a schedule shift, incorporating other underserved areas, and incorporating members from all the health sciences. It's important to get students exposed to all of the schools, including those that weren't able to participate in the most recent Saturday Academy—such as Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Health. And it's important to get each participating school involved in planning and hosting events to ensure each event is interactive, immersive, and inclusive for everyone.
However, getting students interested is not enough. A key goal of the academies is also to provide opportunities for more students to attend and participate. By focusing marketing efforts and increasing awareness in less affluent neighborhoods, along with providing transportation from local Salt Lake community centers, students get valuable exposure to future health care careers and feel a sense of welcoming as a vital part of the community fabric.
The Saturday Academies are just beginning, and engaging parents in these programs will be a critical component moving forward. The program’s elementary school years will start with a parent activity, with interventions for all age groups. In addition, there are plans to incorporate peer mentoring so high school participants can teach their younger peers, and college and graduate students return to work with high schoolers. One of the most exciting new elements involves coordinating all other K through 12 programs in science at the University of Utah with newly-formed community partnerships.
The next Saturday Academy event is planned for March 18, 2023 in partnership with the College of Nursing, which will provide use of its state-of-the-art simulation lab. Registration for the March session is currently open and interested students are encouraged to apply.
Chris Harris, MBA