On Feb. 23, the annual wRiting, Engineering, Art, Communication, and Health (REACH) Symposium for Kids took place at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Nearly 300 hundred elementary school students visited campus to gain exposure to real-life scenarios in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) fields and learn from current USC students.
Volunteers from the Keck School, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Roski School of Art and Design, Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, USC Dornsife Joint Educational Project, USC Undergraduate Student Government and the Press Friends Club at USC collaborated to create a fun and educational curriculum with the theme of “Global Citizenship.” The day was designed to be interactive, with students attending presentations in the morning and afternoon programming devoted to art, music and writing projects reflecting what they learned.
Opening remarks were held in Pappas Quad on the Health Sciences Campus, before students broke into groups to attend presentations about current global issues from USC student presenters specializing in those fields.
The Keck School was represented by 11 graduate and undergraduate students, who presented on a variety of health topics including healthy food choices, refugee health, vaccines and herd immunity.
Philip Spektor, a master’s student in the Master of Science in Global Medicine program, spoke with fourth and fifth graders about refugee health, particularly with regard to child populations.
“I was just amazed at the level of intellect of the children and their knowledge about issues the world is facing right now,” he said. “I was not that smart in fourth grade.”
“Their questions were amazing,” said Leah Kooiman, a Global Medicine student who lectured about vaccines and herd immunity. “We ended up going way longer than expected just because the kids had so many questions. It was awesome!”
During the afternoon, the deans of the Roski and Viterbi schools addressed the students. Reverse Osmosis, a USC a cappella group, performed for the crowd, then spent time being interviewed by students.
The program also gave the elementary school students the opportunity to spend time on a university campus and learn about the world and current events through the multidisciplinary perspectives of student presenters studying in those fields, while being able to enhance their writing and journalism skills.
“We learned about Legos, rockets, and how they work. My favorites were the rockets because I’ve never seen space,” said Miguel, a fourth-grade student at Parmelee Avenue Elementary School, while drawing picture of rockets and Legos with crayons as part of a project designed by the Roski School of Art and Design. “I like this whole school. I want to come here when I’m older,” he said, before running off to turn his drawings into a custom lapel pin.
Nathan Dhablania, a student in the master of science in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine program, began working with Press Friends as an undergraduate and continues to volunteer. Describing the impact of the REACH Symposium, he said, “I am grateful to be able to give back and to see the excitement these students bring to USC. It is a chance for us all to learn.”
— Ryan Seuffert