High school students from Orange and Osceola counties will work in the DNA and microbiology laboratories at the University of Central Florida as part of the medical school’s first summer camp for teens debuting this month.

Students from Jones High School’s medical arts magnet program and students nominated by Osceola high school principals will visit UCF’s Orlando campus and the medical school at the Health Sciences campus in Lake Nona various days July 9-25.

“This is about helping students understand how to prepare so they have lots of options in college,” said Dr. Lisa Barkley, the assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at UCF’s College of Medicine and coordinator of the medical school’s Health Leaders Program. “It is our responsibility to reach into our community and give students the educational opportunities to get jobs right here in our medical city. And for that, they need to be well educated.”

The summer camp that includes on-campus visits and a virtual biology course is a continuation of the medical school’s Health Leaders Program, which began last year in partnership with Jones.

The partnership is designed to increase the diversity of students in medical education and better prepare those youngsters to enter health-care professions. For the past year, Jones students have met with UCF students and faculty members who have mentored them. The UCF volunteers work with the high school students on everything from basic study skills and SAT preparation to homework and basic research fundamentals. The high school students planned and implemented a health survey at their high school to better understand health access and need in their community.

“We wanted to continue the focus on preparation year-round so we came up with this idea,” Barkley said.

Grants are paying for buses that will transport students from central points to the main UCF campus and the COM during the camp. Once on campus, students will tour the main facilities and get the opportunity to work on hands-on laboratory projects in the DNA, pipetting, microbiology and anatomy labs. They’ll also get a chance to listen to speakers provide tips for getting into college, and in the afternoon they’ll participate in a virtual science camp focused on biology.

The camp concludes with students presenting at the medical school what they learned during their biology course.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and we’re elated to be able to be part of such a great partnership with UCF,” said Lisa James, assistant principal at Jones. “The year-long program has been extremely beneficial to the students already. We’ve seen improved focus on their coursework and the mentorship relationships are transferring to classroom learning.”