Students Talk Science 2021

High-School Students Talk About the COVID-19 Vaccine and Healthcare Disparities
in Minority Communities

About the project

In the winter of 2021, we asked high school students participating in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center’s Science, Technology, and Research Scholars (STARS) program and students from the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to share their thoughts and questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and healthcare disparities in minority communities.

The same communities in the US that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic are also dealing with mistrust in the vaccine and difficulties in getting access if they choose to vaccinate. These problems are the result of a long history of racism and discrimination that persists today and is reflected in the many disparities in our healthcare systems. At the same time, Black, Brown, and Native peoples are also part of the community of doctors, researchers, and healthcare workers that will help bring these problems to an end.

We know that the conversations high school students start at home and in the classroom can engage audiences that might not otherwise be reached and this can lead to change. Our goal is not to provide medical advice, nor to “preach” about what people should do. Instead, we wish to offer information that will help people make informed choices based on science.

What we’ve done

We have encouraged our students to independently gather vetted information about the vaccines and about healthcare disparities in minority populations. Students also had the opportunity to meet and interview some of the nation’s top scientists – members of the senior leadership at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – as well as unaffiliated caregivers who are responding to the COVID-19 in various ways. We believe that these high school students embody our nation’s next generation of researchers and healthcare providers. Therefore, they drove the conversations you’ll hear.

What we hope

We hope that the information provided will empower whoever watches to make choices that can save or improve their lives and the lives of others.

Video Collections


In four interviews, students talked with physician/scientists from NIH and elsewhere about past and present
minority healthcare disparities, vaccine access and vaccine hesitancy.

Student Productions

Students produced their own videos about the science of the vaccine and the history of healthcare disparities in minority communities

Information and Resources

For more information on these topics:

Project Advisors

  • Jason Williams–Assistant Director, Inclusion and Research Readiness, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center, NY
  • Brittany Johnson – Educator, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center, NY
  • Carol Carter – Professor, Microbiology & Immunology, Stony Brook University, NY
  • Katie Montez- Science Teacher, Red Cloud Indian School, SD

Participating Students

  • Chase Baird, Grade 12, Red Cloud High School
  • Harrison Banks, Grade 10, Tenafly High School
  • Diana Benedicto-Jimenez, Grade 11, Paul D. Schreiber High School
  • Jarron Bighorn, Grade 12, Red Cloud High School
  • Lyric Clifford, Grade 12, Red Cloud High School
  • Ellis Eisenberg, Grade 10, Half Hollow Hills High School West
  • Brianna Francis, Grade 12, Scholars' Academy High School
  • Samantha Gonzalez, Grade 12, Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School
  • Leann Nicholas, Grade 12, Farmingdale High School
  • Keira Reddy, Grade 12, Red Cloud High School
  • Zen Chi Ho Sang, Grade 12, Central Islip High School
  • Olivia Taylor, Grade 11, Watkinson School
  • Jetta Tobacco, Grade 12, Red Cloud High School
  • Sofia Valdebenito, Grade 11, East Rockaway High School