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Students Share with Underprivileged Youth to Spur Interest in STEM Fields

By Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis

stem imagesFrom the time RIMA PATEL HumSci’17 was a young girl growing up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, she has had a passion for helping others. That’s because she realized early on that, unfortunately, not all children grew up in a supportive home and conducive learning environment like she did.

rima patelBy the time she entered her first year at University of the Sciences, Patel had already made the decision to bolster her community service efforts by further establishing a nonprofit organization called Heart to Soul in Action. The purpose of her organization is to extend science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and healthcare improvements to underprivileged youth.

“Higher education rates have been correlated with lower pregnancy rates, better social mobility, higher health standards, and more effective communication,” said Patel. “Heart to Soul has forged partnerships with local community groups to educate youth in a fun and exciting way by incorporating arts and humanities with STEM disciplines.”

In just three years, Patel’s organization has made a positive influence in the lives of children from Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, and Richmond through donation drives and learning opportunities. However, because she spends the most time in Philadelphia for school, Patel focuses her efforts on the USciences chapter of Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and identifies opportunities to collaborate with Heart to Soul to fulfill the missions of both organizations. This on-campus group currently boasts more than 50 members from all academic disciplines. Over the past school year, Patel and her classmates have hosted a variety of servicelearning projects at homeless shelters, schools, and community organizations.

One of the group’s proudest experiences was visiting Jane Addams Place once a month during the school year to expose young children to interactive STEM lessons and experiments. This West Philadelphia shelter gives homeless mothers and their children a place to stay while they search for permanent residences.

quote"Some of the children’s favorite experiments included creating slime, producing baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, and engineering toothpick and marshmallow bridges,” said Patel. “It was such a rewarding experience to educate them, as well as put smiles on their faces during a tough time in their families’ lives.”

HOSA teamed up with Heart to Soul in the spring semester to participate in the Target Community Nights at The Franklin Institute, which are held on the third Wednesday of the month and free to the public. The themes for these events are different each month, and Patel and her group teamed up with other academic organizations on campus and took part in the chemistry and healthy heart theme nights.

Patel said biology professor Catherine Purzycki serves as the faculty advisor for HOSA and has been instrumental to the success of the events that the organization has put on because she "truly embodies the dedication of USciences professors."  

Although Patel has two years left at USciences, she said she hopes the projects will carry on for many years after she graduates, especially since the professors and administrators at USciences place such a strong emphasis on community service.

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