This semester, seven juniors and seniors of the high school participated in a twelve-week internship through the YES2SUCCESS Program. The Youth Enjoying Science Seeking Useful Comprehensive Cancer Educational Strategies for Students is a virtual cancer course through the City of Hope. The course is normally an in-person laboratory research experience, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program redesigned participation to include students outside their local California communities.
90 students in total contributed to the program, with most students from California but some from North Carolina, Texas, and St. Michael Indian School. The program integrated Labster and LabXchange platforms to teach students about various laboratory techniques and experiments while providing insight into cancer research. The program’s main topics focused on cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. Students worked independently on the program while attending check-in sessions with STEM trainers and facilitators along with professional development for the students. The professional development includes sessions on individual development plans, how to write a letter of recommendation, what makes a good letter of recommendation, and exploring careers in research.
Senior Kaedan Yazzie was one of the students involved in the internship. Kaedan’s favorite aspect of the program was having a discussion on the ethics of research and the medical field and the prioritization of care determined by the nurses and doctors. The real-life scenarios laid out in the weekly zoom meetings sparked many perspectives on the variety of topics. According to Kaedan, the program had a heavy material vocabulary and it often slowed down his pace however prepared him for his college course of study which is nursing. “I plan to go into the nursing program at the University of New Mexico. The program didn’t have much impact on my decision to study nursing, however, my mom liked I was given a chance to look at the research part of science. I have a number of family members in health and medical fields- my mom is a nurse, one grandma is an EMT, and my aunt is a Veterinarian.” Said Kaedan in an interview. “I think it would be good for any student to participate in a program like this. It allows for new viewpoints and pushes you out of your comfort zone. I liked the sense of responsibility it added to my already busy schedule of home and school. I hope the program will continue to let students from St. Michael attend and participate.”
Chiara Holgate, another senior, was an intern who could be found on a zoom call or working on a project at the gym while she waited for a game to start. “Through the assignments, I spent a lot of time working in the online learning programs of Labster and LabXchange, those were good programs to learn and I’m happy SMIS had compatible equipment for us to use. I plan to study Health Science of Fitness and Wellness at Northern Arizona University this fall and the internship taught me more about cancer. I realized how much cancer genetics impact a person’s health and I was trying to figure out how it would tie into what I’ll be learning at college. I’m am now curious to see what our community does for education and services related to cancer. I found the teamwork most beneficial. I got to work with high students and receive mentorship from college students in the internship.”
High school biology and anatomy teacher Jamie Blazak Adams, RN help to facilitate the students on the SMIS campus in coordination with Christopher Sistrunk, Ph.D., who is an Assistant Professor, Dept. Population Sciences, Division of Biomarker of Early Detection and Prevention, and Director of STEM Training and Education Program (STEP) at the City of Hope. Christopher had a chance encounter at a deli with the team’s running team when they attended a meet in California. Having met years prior, the school immediately came to mind when the program wanted to expand its reach outside the California vicinity and engage students who have minimal exposure to nearby programs. Principal Yazzie said,” “This internship provides our students a unique opportunity to gain skills in a real-world learning environment while gaining experience to collaborate with other students across the country. In addition, the skills they gain can further develop their interest in STEM-related job fields.”
The City of Hope is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, making it a national leader in advancing research and treatment protocols. City of Hope has been ranked among the nation’s “Best Hospitals” in cancer by US News & World Report for over a decade, according to organization publications.