STEAM Academy introduces youth to health profession careers at UNMC

STEAM Academy introduces youth to health profession careers at UNMC
Emerald Starling, 17, of Marian High School, left with Antaysia Williams, 17, of Omaha Northwest High School, work on compounding a fake ointment in the lab at the UNMC College of Pharmacy on June 6.

OMAHA – Twelve-year-old Alae’ Copeland followed the pharmacy instructor’s directions to the letter.

Grinding the Smarties with her mortar and pestle, she carefully mixed the candy powder with glycerin and bright pink food coloring. Next she added several tablespoons of vanilla frosting to the side of her weigh bowl, Copeland mixed small amounts of the frosting into the liquid making sure to incorporate everything.

The entire process was an exercise designed to teach pharmaceutical compounding and was part of the Whitney Young Junior STEAM (science, technology, engineering, agriculture, mathematics) Academy through the Urban League of Nebraska.

Copeland was one of 17 girls who took part in the June 6 field trip to the University of Nebraska Medical Center where the group learned about careers in pharmacy and allied health.

The visit is part of a collaboration between the Urban League of Nebraska and the UNMC Office of Community Engagement. The program, aimed at girls, is part of a concerted effort to expose the youths to STEAM fields. The girls spend six weeks in the program throughout the summer and take part in numerous site visits and hands-on activities, said Jeffrey Williams, a Whitney Young Jr. Academy coordinator with the Urban League of Nebraska.

The UNMC visit to explore health careers is one of many, that included a campus tour of Creighton University to learn what life is like at an undergraduate school, and a day spent learning about careers in aviation through building and flying drones.

Williams said the STEAM Academy tries to expose the girls to the wide variety of careers in STEM fields and in providing opportunities for them to make new friends. Copeland, who said she has made several new friends through the STEAM Academy, said she especially enjoyed compounding lab during her visit to UNMC.

Charlize Reaves, 13, said the visit has made her reconsider her career goals. “I was thinking about being a television host, but I really liked learning about the pharmacy stuff,” Reaves said.

To date, 150 girls have taken part in the STEAM Academy since its inception in 2012, including this class, Williams said.

The graduation rate for the girls who have participated is 100 percent and 80 percent of those young women went on to study some type of STEM field in college, he said. Part of that success, he said, is attributed to the opportunities the girls had, like the UNMC visit. “Our time spent at UNMC is invaluable in helping the girls see what career opportunities lie ahead and help them set their career goals early in life,” Williams said.

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