“You are not the future. You are the now.” Anton Blakey, Keynote speaker.
“Dr. Higgins, Dr. Amesi, Dr. Gordon…” Adai Lamar, morning personality at KJLH announced, smiling as each eager “doctor” approached her at the microphone, buttoned in their new starched white coat. The “doctors” ranged from pre-kindergarten through high school aged students, who had completed 24 weeks in the Saturday Science Academy II at the Jr. White Coat Ceremony held on Saturday, January 17th at King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science. They were presented with the White Coats, a name badge, and a Certificate of Completion. But these students aren’t going anywhere. Most will return year after year. The ones with the braided cords have attended the program for over 5 years. One student we interviewed attended 10 years in a row.
“As the Southland commemorated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these students embody his dream in action and legacy of excellence and brotherhood,” remarked Angela Minniefield, VP of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), the parent organization which houses SSA-II and other pipeline programs for South L.A. young people to reach health professions. SSA-II is under the direction of Lorraine Grey who has run the program for over 20 years.
Families of the 200 participants learned that the white lab coat, a universal symbol of the medical profession, is typically given at the beginning of medical school.
Alumni Keynote speaker Rasheed Ivey, who started SSA-II at age 9 and later taught at the Academy while in college. When he was introduced by co-emcee Atty. Jaaye Person-Lynn, of the SSA II Dad’s Club, as now a first year student in CDU’s College of Medicine, that news was warmly received by the crowd. CDU maintains a joint medical education program with the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine.
At first, the Compton born and bred Ivey wasn’t too keen on attending SSA-II.
“I wasn’t excited about coming here on Saturdays…I’ll just keep it 100,” he remembered, glancing at his mother sitting on the front row. “I did not want to be doing anything but watching cartoons or eating cereal …but my Mom had another idea. So, my first time here I had to get a whippin’ to get here…She had to whip me for about 2 or 3 weeks because I was standing my ground…But I appreciate my Mom for really doing those things to get up on Saturday to get here. We want to celebrate the children but it’s really hard as well for the parents after 40 hour work weeks.”
The turning point came when Ivey and his class got to dissect a pig. “I was really good at it, he said. He decided he liked to “cut” things. At that point, he said, he could either decide to be a “hit man” or a medical doctor. Fortunately, he was fascinated with the latter.
The keynote speaker, Anton Blakey from Compton City Council’s 4th District said, “Students you are not the future. You are the now. When I was your age, no one could convince me this (pointing to his cell phone) was possible or that I could get in my car and tap on the screen and listen to any radio station I wanted to. But all of those things are happening right now today. In your lives you will have the opportunity not tomorrow but today to make an impact on the rest of the world…don’t wait.”
Blakey remarked, “What SSA-II offers is not just “luck” it is the opportunity of chance and preparation colliding to educate our students. “
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science has sponsored the program for more than 20 years. It is not advertised because it has a waiting list each year even though almost 300 students enroll each year. In addition to the STEM courses, this rigorous academic program is designed to foster knowledge, self-esteem, discipline, positive study habits, confidence and the encouragement to succeed.
For inquiries about the event and program, please contact: Lorraine Grey, Director, Saturday Science Academy II, at (323) 563-5901. For more information about CDU, visit www.cdrewu.edu.