George Lucas Educational Foundation

University Teams Up with Local Schools to Advance Careers in Medicine

A commitment to serving the local community motivated the University of Southern California University Hospital and Keck Medical School to develop internships for students at Bravo Medical Magnet High School who, in turn, mentor elementary school students. More to this story.
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Narrator: Every school day afternoon, several students from Bravo Medical Magnet High School take a five-minute walk to continue their education on the campus of one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Lauren: Admitting, Valencia. Lauren speaking.

Narrator: Some of them intern at the University of Southern California Hospital, learning the ropes of the medical office world.

Echo cart, so just put CA.

Narrator: A select group of students in Bravo's Science, Technology, and Research Program, STAR, and the Engineering for Health Academy, EHA, work in labs on the USC campus.

Mark: The work we're doing is taking a blind person and putting a computer chip in their eye. And by doing so, this computer chip allows them to wirelessly connect to a camera. So the camera is worn in the glasses and sends the information to the brain, allowing the blind person to see.

Hardik: Basically, I’m going to be putting different amounts of current through the resistor and measuring the corresponding temperature for that current.

Mark: Education has to be much more hands on. We can't continue to just educate students in silos and not integrate technologies in this case into medical applications.

What are you working on?

Hardik: Right now, I'm just trying to smooth out the output of this circuit right now--

Mark: We're providing a very unique laboratory environment so students can come over here and actually have a very hands-on type of experience.

Narrator: Bravo students work with researchers and graduate students five days a week during their senior year.

Faizan: And I have been testing my compounds, which are my drugs, over and over again. And the compounds will tell us if these compounds have any sort of anti-cancer activity. So like if they basically-- trying to find a cure for cancer.

Joe: And so Faizan has helped to contribute to--

Narrator: Bravo physiology teacher, Joe Cocozza, helped establish the partnerships between Bravo and USC.

Joe: Well, these are extremities too.

Narrator: He now splits his time teaching classes at Bravo and doing outreach for the university.

Joe: I talk to the principal investigator, find out what kind of research is being done there. Then I explain to them carefully the time commitment that the students need to make. The students are in lab two hours a day minimally. And the students have to understand that they're actually partaking in real research. It's not a class, it's not on a bell schedule. So that if they're in a middle of a procedure, they can't just get up and walk out.

Nouri: What our students are doing today is testing the activity of several drugs that we designed against HIV 1 integrase. These high school students are very talented. These are really cream of crop. They are the best of the best in the country, in fact. When I was a high school student, I would have been so happy just to go in the lab, wash the dishes. But now, my students actually are doing experiments. And these experiments are really very high level, sophisticated experiments, just the same experiments that the post docs and graduate students are doing. So the high school students are really-- this is fantastic for them. They can do very cool stuff.

Joe: I think we have a real commitment that it does take a village to educate anyone. And so we envisioned the outreach program at the Engineering Research Center as having a brigade of mentors.

Tino: And when it's such a small amount, we really do need to make sure that it's exact.

Tino: I graduated from Bravo in 1998. Being a mentor to all the young high school students that used to go through Bravo, I mean, it's kind of completing a circle in that, you know, I've received a lot of mentorship and help or whatnot. And then now it makes me feel even more grown to actually be able to teach the next generation of scientists. And hopefully they decide to say in research, because we really need their help.

Narrator: The relationship with Bravo and other schools in the area is part of USC's commitment to serving the local community.

Hit the transfer button.

Cesar: This past year alone, between the faculty, staff, doctors, nurses, we've raised one point two million out of our own pockets, and 100 percent of that goes back into community programs. There's just a fundamental commitment that USC's in for the long haul. We're not going anywhere. We know the schools are not going anywhere. And if there's a personnel change, we reintroduce ourselves, and that each year we're coming back with the resources. Always seeking new resources.

Narrator: As part of a grant from the National Science Foundation, USC partnerships extend to elementary school classrooms, where elementary, high school, and graduate students learn from each other.

Joe: And they're all doing hands on, project-based learning, and they're all helping one anothher. And it translates in both directions, because the older mentors are teaching some of the skills and the content, but they're also learning from the younger kids what does it take to be able to communicate effectively to someone younger than you.

Narrator: The USC-Bravo partnership has accomplished much more than its primary goal of giving high school students a window on their future.

Faizan: Bravo has been great. This is like the only place that offers me a chance to work at a lab. Basically, I was in between pharmacology or pursue something else, and this experience has helped me. Yeah, it's actually pretty fun.

Narrator: For more information about what works in education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producers

  • Doug Keely
  • Kathy Baron

Camera Crew

  • Jeff Freeman
  • Rebecca Usnik

Additional Camera

  • Doug Keely
  • Ken Ellis

Video Programming Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Michael Pritchard

Additional footage courtesy of

  • Doheny Eye Institute

Edutopia's Schools That Work Merging Career Tech and College Prep installment is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.

Partnerships are a win for all - schools, students, business, and the community. For more information, check out our resource roundup on how to initiate and foster business partnerships.

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