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PharmCAMP Introduces Young Students to Pharmacy and Other STEM Topics

What kid volunteers to go to school on a weekend? Rialto Unified School District children did when they attended the Keck Graduate Institute’s first annual on-campus Come and Meet Pharmacy Days (PharmCAMP), Saturday and Sunday, March 4 and 5. Some of the children even told their chaperones that they learned so much they did not want to leave. The event included approximately 150 student attendees and 100 volunteers.

At PharmCAMP, students learned such fun things as the science behind making ice cream and slime and also about pharmacy-related activities. In one activity, students extracted DNA from strawberries and learned how understanding DNA helps treat rare diseases. A fifth grader enthusiastically asked, “Is this what a pharmacist does and what we study at school? If it is, I want to go to school to be pharmacist!”

PharmCAMP is the brainchild of Dr. Christine Cadiz, assistant professor of clinical sciences, and third-year Doctor of Pharmacy student Kim Nguyen.

The pilot PharmCAMP program was designed to expose young students to STEM-related careers through active and fun learning. The program familiarizes students with careers in pharmacy and other STEM fields and encourages and inspires students to pursue higher education. While STEM has been a buzzword for the past half decade, pharmacy continues to be a little known career field, especially among children.

KGI student volunteer Ariana Verduzco explains: “The power of PharmCAMP stems from the exposure we are giving these students to career opportunities in the future. We are opening their eyes to the possibilities in pharmacy, some of which were unbeknownst to many of us until late in our own careers.”

Having taught middle school science prior to beginning her pharmacy education, Cadiz has a deep passion for teaching and inspiring young students. “I am a firm believer in engaging students in STEM subjects at a young age and fostering the importance of higher education. PharmCAMP is such a special event that allows us to stimulate and nurture curiosity about these topics,” she said.

Nguyen has even stronger personal ties to the PharmCAMP pilot program, having attended elementary, middle, and high school in the Rialto Unified School District. Nguyen believes in giving back to the community that has contributed to her personal and professional growth.

According to the United States Census Bureau, in Rialto, between 2010 and 2014, only 29% of residents in the 25 and older age group held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The PharmCAMP program provides early encouragement and sources of inspiration for students to pursue higher education in an attempt to affect student success.

“I attended Rialto Unified School District, and I saw first hand the struggles these students had to go through,” said Nguyen “They are all so capable but may lack the confidence and support needed for them to realize their potential. I hope that their participation in PharmCAMP will provide them with the push they need to succeed.

Not only was PharmCAMP beneficial for Rialto Unified students, “it allows us [at KGI] to bond with the community,” said Cadiz. “The experience PharmD students have through the PharmCAMP program will prepare them to work with diverse populations and underserved communities.”

And what about those Rialto Unified students that opted out of PharmCAMP or were not able to attend? Middle and high school students will have the opportunity to prepare a workshop for those students in a “pay-it-forward” layered learning model, truly leaving no student behind.

After all, KGI is passionate about student success—for all students.