Santa Cruz County School Superintendent, Alfredo Velásquez and the Healthy Students Grant sponsored the second annual Pharm Camp for county 7th and 8th grade students who want to pursue a career in the fields of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. This camp was held June 19th through the 22nd, and was housed at the Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College. The camp is directed by Dr. Theodore Tong, Associate Dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arizona. Dr. Tong along with his associates and Pharmacy student counselors organize four days of engaging activities for 25 young STEM enthusiasts. Partners included the Community College, Mariposa Community Health Center, Walgreen’s Pharmacy, and Southwest Foods. These organizations provided space for the camp, workplace tours, panel discussions with doctors, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists, and fun, interactive activities. Twice daily, Southwest Foods delivered snacks and lunch and the friendly staff at the community college welcomed students and families in to the building with a smile.
Pharm Camp is a community outreach program presented by the University of Arizona. Dr. Tong and his team offer this opportunity in small communities to help spark an interest in kids and expose them to new knowledge they otherwise may not have access to. Camp staff plan hands-on activities, field trips, laboratory exercises, and discussions. Students worked in the Chemistry Lab outfitted from head to toe in protective and sanitary equipment and were able to make hand sanitizer, lip balm, and toothpaste. An experiment held outside during excessive heat proved sunscreen with a SPF of 50 was going to provide the most protection for our skin- the largest organ in our body. The campers not only did activities, but they were also taught a variety of different things from, the history of drug discovery and traditional medicine, to learning skills that require the use of calculations and pharmaceutical tools and measurements. Guest speakers from Poison Control shared important facts about venomous creatures of the Southwestern region and the danger of tobacco use. The Pharm Camp students continued their learning experience studying germs and bacteria and swabbed doorknobs and water fountains with Q-tips to test where the most germs could be hiding and how quickly bacteria can grow.
As a culminating project, campers prepared skits to show their families and community what they had learned from this camp. Topics ranged from sun safety, to poison control, to how to dispose of unused medication properly. The campers received a University of Arizona College of Pharmacy T-shirt, hat, and a group photo to always remember the new friendships they built. It was a terrific chance for middle school students to meet people from other schools before they get to high school. Campers were thrilled with the wealth of information they acquired at Pharm Camp 2017. This experience indeed was both entertaining and educational.