The Saturday Science Academy II at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine (SSA-II), a STEM program for youth from underserved communities in L.A., graduated 159 K-12 students at its 18th annual “Junior White Coat Ceremony” on Jan. 20.
SSA-II is a year-round program with three eight-week sessions during the school year and a four-week summer course. The program is open to all students, but ultimately seeks to inspire students of color toward degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering or math because those populations have been traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields.
Organizes of the program report that students who participated in SSA-II in 2017 saw
a 91% overall improvement in their grades, with nearly 80% of students increasing their grades from failing to passing (59% increased their grades from “F” to “A,” 7% increased from “F” to “B” and 10% increased from “F” to “C”). Parents and students alike credit the program for improving student performance in schools and better immersing parents into their children’s studies. “I am so grateful for Ms. Grey and the Academy, because they have changed my kids’ lives and helped them get to the next level in their education,” said Susan Jones, who has had four children go through the program.
Charles Drew President Dr. David Carlisle lauded the program during the ceremony. “This is one of the most amazing ceremonies held anywhere in the United States, because this is where you see future health care professionals as young as age four have gathered together to receive their first white coats,” he said. The white coats that SSA-II students receive symbolize integrity, compassion, dedication and a commitment to serving others.
The students took turns demonstrating the knowledge they’ve acquired since entering the program, such as how the cardiovascular system works.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), gave the keynote address, encouraging students to reach for the stars. “You can be anything in the world that you want to be, and it’s also okay to change your dreams and aspirations, as long as you always have them.”
LAUSD board member George McKenna III also gave remarks at the ceremony, commending the graduating class for dedicating their Saturdays to enriching their education.
This year’s graduation marked the final ceremony for Lorraine Grey, who has been at the helm of the Academy since 2000. “We really appreciate [Grey], because this program wouldn’t be here without her, and the careers of so many young people would not have been launched into the health care professions without her,” Carlisle said.
Eileen Forbes-Hill, executive Director of Pipeline and School Partnership Programs, will assume the responsibility for leading SSA-II.
Parents and students who are interested in the program are encouraged to reach out to Eileen Forbes-Hill at 323-563-5803 or EileenForbeshill@cdrewu.edu. For more information, visit www.cdrewu.edu.