The Oncofertility Saturday Academy: A Paradigm to Expand the Educational Opportunities and Ambitions of High School Girls
Women of all races and ethnicities remain underrepresented in science. Attrition of women along the educational and career trajectory or science pipeline occurs at every transition period at a higher rate than men. The science pipeline has been identified to begin during the transition period between high school and college because it is at this stage when a student makes key decisions that will lead to an academic degree and career in science. To strategically combat the attrition between high school and college, the Oncofertility Saturday Academy (OSA) program was developed between a high school (Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago) and a university (Northwestern University). OSA is composed of basic science and clinical experiences designed to make the high school curriculum more relevant and to empower more high school girls to become the next generation of women to achieve excellence and leadership in science. Using a sequence of challenging, thematic modules offered to high school juniors, seniors, and college students, OSA offers young women the opportunity to explore basic science research, clinical applications, and career options of multiple science disciplines. To make the learning experiences relevant and applicable to the girls’ lives, there is a focused concentration on women’s health throughout the entire program. To support the girls through this sequence of experiences, members from both the high school and university communities are actively involved in a synergistic science mentor and support network to foster more girls who are interested in science during the transition period between high school and college. The members of this network provide a wide range of support including role modeling, mentoring, and advising. The program has successfully transitioned high school girls uncertain of their future goals to college students with science-related majors and has the potential to be replicated at other high schools nationwide. Providing parent education, cultivating parent–student communication, and building tools to support their daughters’ successes is also a critical part of the program. The expectation is that OSA will contribute to an increased pipeline of young women entering into and being retained in scientific disciplines.
KeywordsFertility Preservation High School Girl Female Medical Student Profile Page High School Science Teacher
We would like to thank Northwestern University and Young Women’s Leadership Charter School for their dedication to academic excellence and believing that every student has the potential to succeed.
Within the Northwestern community we would like to thank the Feinberg School of Medicine, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, McCormick School of Engineering, School of Education and Social Policy, The Institute for Women’s Health Research, and Center for Reproductive Sciences.
Within the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School community we would like to thank Co-Founding Director, Margaret Small, Ph.D., the current Co-Directors, Michelle Russell and Chandra Sledge, the Science Team, and the Board of Directors.
We would like to thank the over 100 OSA faculty members who each play a significant role in the successful delivery of the program every year.
We especially would like to thank the 47 OSA sisters, parents, and family members for their commitment to the program and for trailblazing the path for the future OSA participants to follow and build upon.
This research was supported by the Oncofertility Consortium NIH 8UL1DE019587, 5RL1HD058296.
We would like to thank photographer Roark Johnson for documenting OSA and contributing the photographs for this book chapter.
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