Project Narrative: Because the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the dire need for more health care professionals on Navajo Nation, we will create pathways for high school and junior high school students to pursue Biomedical Sciences, Public Health, Allied healthcare and related STEM careers. Our approach is entrepreneurial and builds critical thinking and citizenship capacity (aligned with NGSS) by encouraging students to imagine innovative solutions and providing them with the resources to implement and test their hypotheses. Our strategy also includes the near-peer model which pairs Diné College students (mentors) with high school and junior high students from underserved communities, particularly Navajo Nation to build leadership capacity for college students, and create pathways to higher education in Biomedical Sciences/ STEM programs for pre K- K12 students.
Summary: Project Title: CONVOY: A Cultural approach of Navajo Youth to Bio- medical Sciences. Need Assessment: STEM Learning Ecosystems are localized multi-stakeholder collaborative networks (MSCNs) that are “dynamic collaborations among schools, out-of-school time programs, STEM expert institutions (eg., museums, science centers, and institutions of higher education), the private sector, community-based organizations, youth and families”, and has been identified as one of the key sources to harvest human capital and contribute to novel interventions through the development of advanced knowledge. We will create a bridge between traditional indigenous knowledge and modern biomedical science via “CONVOY”. Peer Groups: Numerous peer groups focus on the development of K-12 and undergraduate research and education programs for underserved minority communities, but there are very few who are focusing on healthcare and biomedical sciences. This proposed activity will provide the students with health disparity-related research experiences, hands-on laboratory training, and other educational and communication opportunities via Science Café and Health Fairs to prepare them for future leadership and careers in healthcare, biopharma, and other associated professions. Proposal: “CONVOY” project will bring together students from Junior high schools, high schools (mentees) and Diné College (mentor avatars) in order to spawn their enduring curiosity in biomedical and health sciences — especially among Navajo (Diné) youth and students from other underserved communities— while adapting the concept of “near-peer” network to bring forward the local health issues to the open forums. Specific Aims: CONVOY, identifies causal links between Indigenous traditional knowledge and modern science to achieve four specific aims i.e., 1) Motivate Navajo high school and junior high school students to study and pursue careers in Biomedical Sciences and related fields; 2) Nurture holistic practices that bridge the gap between Navajo traditional practices and western medicine to develop a marketable land based solution, while focusing on problems faced by local communities; 3) Prepare students to enroll in institutions of higher learning and provide opportunities to earn college credit in high school through Dine College’s Dual Enrollment Program for biomedical sciences, and 4) Develop curriculum for a 10-week summer program to support activities by “CONVOY”. Expected Outcome: the benefits of the “Convoy” will include but are not limited to: i) Development of a need appropriate support system (near-peer-mentorship) that will serve as a main technical support for training and innovative research to help provide better healthcare services, ii) Greater understanding of the local epidemiology of infections, diseases and health disparities, iii) Increase local workforce development in several critical areas that have implications broader than current COVID-19 pandemic or other infections and diseases.