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Stanford Report, October 22, 2003

Multi-year grant boosts popular program’s outreach to at-risk minority youth High school students learn science through experience


A student-driven program that mentors low-income youth interested in health careers has received a $1.4 million grant to bring science activities to rural and inner city schools year-round.

The Stanford Medical Youth Science Program will receive $275,000 a year for the next five years to fund science education, mentorship and community outreach programs at under-resourced high schools in northern and central California.

The award is one of several funded under the Minority K-12 Initiative of the National Institutes of Health Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The program will use the funds to launch a new initiative that will work with high school teachers to increase student knowledge of science and health careers.

"Our primary objective is providing school-based science initiatives for students as well as training for science teachers that will foster a love for science," said executive director Judith Ned.

The program will recruit local health professionals and Stanford faculty for volunteer speaker panels, hands-on demonstrations and "shadowing," which brings students into the workplace to see their mentors’ day-to-day work. In keeping with the youth science program’s larger mission, high school students can participate in research projects looking at lifestyle choices, health risks and health resources in their communities.

"We’re excited that we have the opportunity to broaden the reach of the program into the community and schools," said program founder Marilyn Winkleby, PhD, associate professor of medicine. "We’re hoping that by providing career and college admissions guidance and stimulating science for a nine-month period in the schools, we’ll reach a broader group of students than we’ve been able to reach in the past."

The youth sciences program has been fostering college and career ambitions of low-income high school students since 1988, despite shoestring budgets and uncertain funding year to year.

"Usually programs like these don’t keep going for 16 years," Winkleby said. "We’ve held to our philosophy that small mentoring programs for students from challenging backgrounds are where we can really make an impact." Its campus-based summer program, run yearly by Stanford undergraduates, has been a striking success.

The summer program brings 24 northern and central California high school students to live on campus with 10 undergrads who serve as mentors and counselors. The program accepts high school sophomores and juniors from low-income families, who would be the first in their families to attend college.

Applicants must demonstrate commitment to community service. Those accepted receive full scholarships to attend the five-week program of instruction, group projects, laboratories and field trips. Attendees gain experience through hospital internships and pre-college guidance from Stanford faculty, medical students and health-care professionals.

Students leave the summer program prepared to pursue college educations. They learn to fill gaps in their high school educations, complete college applications and locate financial aid. The program contacts its graduates annually to help with career choices and to track progress.

Of 333 students who attended the summer program from 1988 to 2002, 16 percent are still finishing high school and 83 percent are college students or graduates. Almost 70 percent of those attending college are science majors, and 43 percent have proceeded to graduate or professional school. Most remain in health fields. Many become involved in community health or practice in underserved neighborhoods.

The program’s history and successes will be celebrated in a new book, to be released this month. The book features photos of students and program activities and follows the careers and life stories of 16 summer program graduates. It will be available through the Stanford Prevention Research Center’s Web site at

Proceeds will benefit an endowment to secure the future of the outreach programs. "We’ve been inspiring the next generation of community health professionals for 15 years, and we want to continue to do so," Ned said.

Lunch with the president (7/23/03)

Youth project reaches out through high school workshops, Web site (3/4/98)