IMSA Students Named Winners in COVID Health Equity Challenge | Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

IMSA Students Named Winners in COVID Health Equity Challenge

AURORA – In a collaboration with Rush Medical University and MATTER, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) held the COVID in our Communities Health Equity Design Challenge to address the current and anticipated challenges faced by Black and/or Latinx communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. IMSA is pleased to announce that Paola Padilla ‘21 earned first place in the challenge. Krisha Patel ‘21 and Erin Yoo ‘22 were each awarded second place, while Nathan Joseph ‘21, Saicharan Voora ‘21 and Sanaa Davis ’22 received third place honors.

“Young people can be an important resource in mitigating risks, and for community outreach in this crisis,” says Betty Hart, IMSA Innovation Program Manager and coordinator of the competition.

According to Hart, the COVID in our Communities Health Equity Design Challenge asked students how to empower, address or solve an issue/problem related to the COVID-19 situation concerning their own community. Specifically, students were required to address current and anticipated challenges faced by Black and/or Latinx communities. Students worked within the guidelines of current Illinois and federal law, policy and guidance in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being that the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy is committed to advancing equity and creating a diverse, inclusive community of global citizens who advance the human condition; this challenge was an opportunity for students to put forth ideas that disrupt systemic racism in Black and Latino communities that have caused underlying factors such as health disparities and economic injustices, contributing to higher incidence of coronavirus,”  says Adrienne Coleman, IMSA Director of Equity and Inclusion.

Judges, including IMSA partners at MATTER, Chicago’s healthcare startup incubator, were asked to examine each student’s idea through an equity-minded lens, reflecting upon how it acknowledges and challenges systemic racism, discrimination and oppression that have contributed to the “status quo”, in an effort to achieve equity.

The winning project by Miss Padilla ‘21 is a community program called “UNIDAD”. The word unidad means “unity” in Spanish, and this program uses the power of social media as a platform to empower Black and Latinx communities to reestablish trust in systems. Through cross-generational collaboration, UNIDAD can bring awareness to culturally and linguistically diverse residents who need immediate access to resources such as healthcare, financial assistance and advocacy organizations.

The ideas taking second place included “ABLE: Amplifying Black and Latinx Empowerment” by Miss Patel ‘21. ABLE is a multi-pronged service driven initiative designed to advocate for policy implementation, minority health literacy and financial independence for marginalized communities with an emphasis on empowering household leaders to support their families. In addition, “Mandatory COVID-19 Testing Policy” by Miss Yoo ‘22 uses an objective checklist implemented throughout the state of Illinois to combat racial biases in the healthcare industry.

“Metrospace” by Mr. Joseph ‘21 is a policy and app which promotes safe social distancing measures on public transportation to prevent crowded public transportation methods by avoiding  a “rush hour” and maximizing space between passengers. Miss Voora ‘21 and the app “Helper” is designed for low-income users to identify affordable housing, food pantries and employment opportunities. “Community Care” by Miss Davis ‘22 is an outreach initiative that has goal-oriented solutions and provides a variety of community services and partners/volunteers.

More than any other ethnic group, Black and Latinx populations are at greater risk of adverse outcomes to their health and finances. People in low-income or minority communities are more likely to work in jobs that expose them to the virus ― in factories or grocery stores and public transit, for example. They’re less likely to have paid sick leave and more likely to live in crowded housing. They have high rates of chronic illness. They also have inadequate access to health care, especially routine preventive services.  There is also an education gap in many communities and underlying environmental factors – further impairing the communities ability to recover from systemic injustices.

Student participants of the COVID in our Communities Health Equity Design Challenge also had the opportunity to share in a virtual conversation with Rush Medical University’s Youth Internship Program as well health and community experts, including: Ms. Sheronda Kimbrough, President and CEO of Trinity Mobility Company, and IMSA Alumni Dr. Twyla Blackmond Larnell Assistant Professor, American Politics, at Loyola University, Dr. Ayodele Gomih Epidemiologist, Multi-passionate Artist, and Activist and Itzel Lopez-Hinojosa, Medical Student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

For more information about innovation and entrepreneurship programs at IMSA, or to inquire about partnerships and design challenges, visit IMSA’s Center for Innovation and Inquiry online.