High school students learn importance of environmental health

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Courtesy Milka Kalajdzic | The Daily Wildcat High School students attending the 8 day environmental boot camp visit the Tucson Village Farm.

The Environmental Scholars Summer Bootcamp gives high school students an opportunity to voice their concerns on environmental topics and have a hands-on approach. They can write a grant proposal that lets them carry out their projects through funding from the University of Arizona.

The eight-day bootcamp is offered through the UA’s Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is open to all high school students seeking to become familiar with the topic of environmental health. 

According to the College of Pharmacy’s website, the summer camp is modeled after successful science camps which lets students learn and create real-world connections between toxicology and the environment.

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“[The bootcamp] is focused on environmental sciences but more so specifically on environmental health issues that relate back to us in our community,” said Tasnim Zahlan, a UA alum and an advisor of the summer program. 

The director of the Community Engagement Core, which aims to connect with the community to provide unbiased research and information on environmental health, is Dr. Marti Lindsey, who also oversees this program.

“Dr. Lindsey is going to look for funding for them to carry out those projects, so it is not hypothetical. It is if you are actually serious about an issue that has not been researched before, we will try to provide you with the means possible,” said Zahlan. 

The scholars conduct experiments, hear from faculty members and go on field trips all while working on their individual projects with help from mentors.

“I am looking forward to our presentations at the end of the week. We are doing a grant proposal and I want to do a topic on cancer cells; how can I fix [cancer cells], how can we find more cures?” said Elizabeth Barnett, a student in the program. “I want to be a part of the chain reaction.” 

Students have the opportunity to attend several field trips, including to the agriculture farm and water treatment center.

Uriel Fernandez, a senior in high school, said his favorite part of the program was the field trips. 

Courtesy Milka Kalajdzic
A high school student from the 8 day environmental boot camp inspects a tomato at the Tucson Village Farm.

“We went to the water treatment center near Marana and it was really cool seeing the laboratories there and seeing that there are students over there working through their programs offered through the UA,” he said.

High school students in the program say they are excited to learn about environmental health and hopefully one day use skills taught in the program to achieve their aspirations. Student Malinee Cooper sees the program beneficial to her goals of becoming a geologist. 

“I chose to be in Environmental Scholars because I know environmental science is a family tree of geology and I want to be a geologist when I grow up,” Cooper said.

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Barnett said she has always been interested in looking at the environment and the butterfly effect, especially when it comes to animals and humans. She said she is thinking of becoming a pediatrician and wants to see if science could change something in DNA to change a body’s functioning and how would it be affected by its surroundings.

Fernandez sees this opportunity as a way to gain “more expertise in environmental safety.” He said it is good to know these tips because a lot of people don’t know the do’s and don’ts, what and what not to recycle and why it’s important to not pour pesticides down the drain.

Barnett said she is excited to be in the program, as Environmental Scholars gives high school students the chance to learn more about the UA lifestyle, network and find other students her age that are interested in the same field.

Zahlan hopes students gain a deeper understanding of the environment and see how it ties in with their local communities.

“This camp is aimed at high school students, and we want them to realize the importance of environmental studies and how it pertains to their daily lives,” Zahlan said.


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