July 2022 Newsletter

Category: Newsletter

Students’ Input & Community Help Design the Future San Diego Institute of Science & Technology

For the past two years, EIS has laid the foundation for a new initiative called the San Diego Institute of Science and Technology. The Institute will be a robust, STEM-based college preparation and leadership program for students in southeastern San Diego and beyond. The Institute will be a college readiness program focused on STEM careers and academics in the greater San Diego region.

The project will extend far beyond the walls of the EIS Learning Center by providing robust experiences including mentorship opportunities, externships, internships, seminars, and practicums. To plan the most effective and engaging program for community students, we needed the input of the experts, community students, school staff, and parents. We were fortunate to engage RISE San Diego and NP Strategies to conduct extensive community research through interviews, surveys, and focus groups to inform the feasibility and program design for the future San Diego Institute of Science & Technology.

We were thrilled that five hundred and eighty-five people participated in the study, primarily students from Morse and Lincoln High Schools. We learned that students are enthusiastic about opportunities to gain experience in STEM during and after the school day. Students let us know that they welcome the concept of a new STEM-based college prep program. They also identified what would cause barriers to their participation, including having multiple extracurricular activities and responsibilities as caregivers for siblings and jobs. School administrators also provided valuable input to develop intentional recruiting plans that target children who have been historically excluded (i.e., Black & Latina/o) from participating in STEM education and activities. We learned so much through this process and will incorporate the findings into the program design. EIS is grateful to everyone that participated in the study for their valuable contributions.

We look forward to announcing the launch date for the new Institute soon.

Meet EIS Alum and Donor Denise Whitfield, MD

Introducing youth to role models with whom they can relate is vital to increasing diversity in STEM careers. Today we are excited to introduce you to a former student inspired to pursue a career in medicine by an EIS mentor. Denise Whitfield, MD, MBA was a student at Morse High School and learned about EIS through her biology teacher, Mrs. Mauer. Through an EIS Summer Internship, Denise met Dr. Janis Jackson, a clinician and laboratory scientist at The Scripps Research Institute committed to mentoring African-American youth in science careers. Dr. Jackson was doing cellular cancer research when Denise worked in her lab on one of the genetic research projects. “There were three other students in the lab that summer from the EIS programs. It was fun all getting to work with together.”

While Denise was great at math and science, she did not consider becoming a physician before meeting Dr. Jackson. “I knew that I wanted to go to college and I would, but it was a big leap to be a physician. Dr. Jackson was really an inspiration for me as a role model. She encouraged me to believe that it was a goal I could achieve.”

Denise’s father was in the Navy, and she utilized Navy scholarships to pay for college and medical school. After graduation, she started active duty as a physician in the Medical Corps. She went on multiple assignments, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. She completed her residency at Naval Medical Center San Diego, the same hospital where she was born. “For my last job in the Navy, I worked during the Obama administration as an Emergency Medicine physician in the White House Medical Unit. The last year and a half, I was the primary physician for Michele Obama.” After the Navy, she did a fellowship in emergency medical services, which included pre-hospital care and 911 systems. Denise currently works at the Los Angeles County EMS (Emergency Medical Services) Agency and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, teaching residents, practicing emergency medicine, and facilitating education programs for L.A. County pre-hospital care.

When asked what advice she has for high school students, Denise encourages youth not to think of their goals as particularly daunting and to ask for help. “When I was a high school student I didn’t realize how many people were looking to help me. I was sometimes hesitant to ask questions or I did not know what to ask about. I would say that 95% of people want to help you and want to see you succeed. Lean on the people who are supportive to help you get there.”

Denise recently donated to EIS inspired by her experience mentoring pre-medical students at UCLA, many of whom are first-generation, like herself. “I was sharing my story of how I went into medicine and it reminded me of Dr. Jackson. I felt I should be doing a lot more work to show people opportunities. So, I thought of the EIS program, went online, and decided to donate.”

We are grateful for the generous support from Dr. Whitfield. Individual donors are an inspiration to the staff at EIS. Their passion for equity in education and supporting underserved youth inspires us to carry on the mission of EIS.

Link to Dr. Janis Jackson spotlight https://mailchi.mp/eisca/eis-2020february#Black%20History

An update from Summer Camp and FIRE Up!


FIRE Up!, a robotics camp for middle school girls is off to a great start. There will be four two-week sessions of FIRE Up! followed by a week of career exploration field trips. At the end of each session, families are invited to see the girl’s projects and presentations. The first sessions of students showed off ingenious designs and impressive programming skills. Students reported their favorite parts of the program was working with drones, building robots, and 3D modeling. FIRE Up! Instructor, Emily Osborne, reported her favorite part was working with such a great group of girls. All FIRE Up! camps are filled for the rest of the summer so if FIRE Up! sounds like something you or someone you know would be interested in, sign up early in 2023.


Summer STEM Camp

The theme for this years’ first camp was Growing Gardeners. Our campers enjoyed learning about plants, vermicomposting, fungi (mushrooms), and how food is grown. In week two, Astronomy camp, students met with a cosmologist from UCSD and learned all about the origins of the universe, the birth and death of stars, black holes, and more!  Week Three was the Emerging Environmentalist camp, where students explored solutions to pollution, and climate change and had a very special field trip to the Living Coast Discovery Center. Campers observed sea turtles, sharks, crustaceans, and birds of prey and enjoyed being outdoors! Week Four is all about engineering, coding, and 3D printing design. Underwater Adventures is the theme for Week Five. Students will visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps to visit the blue penguins, sea horses, and more underwater treasures! EIS provides 10 weeks of summer camp, repeating the themes from the first five weeks for the last five weeks.

A big thank you to all our donors, and shout out to Level Up SD, San Diego Foundation, and SD Unified School District for supporting SD Unified students to participate in our camps free of cost

The Southeast Science & Art Expo

EIS will once again participate in the Southeast Science & Art Expo on Saturday, August 13th, 2022 from 10am to 2pm at the Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library in Southeast San Diego (next door to us).

The event will provide a family-friendly environment where curiosity and exploration will intersect with creativity and culture. There will also be parent-oriented booths and resources, such as homecare activities, healthcare orientation, college readiness for students, and other community opportunities.


Volunteer with EIS

EIS seeks a volunteer to help us organize our online photo collection and transcribe surveys. The experience needed includes basic computer proficiency. This opportunity can be done virtually or at our STEM learning center. We expect this opportunity will take a total of 1-2 hours per week for the next 2-3 months.

Tasks are completed on a computer and include:

  • Labeling photos
  • Moving photos to correct folders
  • Cropping, adjusting, and standardizing format
  • Transcribe surveys from Excel sheets into a Word document

Additional volunteers opportunities may be available once this project is completed. If interested, please send your inquiry with the subject line “Computer/Admin Volunteer” to info@eisca.org


Have you participated in programs or volunteered at the Elementary Institute of Science?
Whether you’re still in high school, college, working or retired, we want to know what you’ve been up to and if you have thoughts about any impact EIS had on your life or career. Please send an email to our Development Assistant, Leah Oviedo at loviedo@eisca.org.

EIS alumni are invited to join our official group to reconnect and stay updated on future reunions. Facebook.com/groups/AlumniConnectEIS

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Use the form below to contact EIS staff, and we will respond as quickly as possible!

Elementary Institute of Science
608 51st Street
San Diego, CA 92114


Use the form below to contact EIS staff, and we will respond as quickly as possible!

Elementary Institute of Science
608 51st Street
San Diego, CA 92114