Graduate students Nayoung Kim, left, and Sefany Cornea issued a departmental challenge to help an elementary school by fundraising more than $3,000. (Submitted photo)
Graduate students Nayoung Kim, left, and Sefany Cornea issued a departmental challenge to help an elementary school by fundraising more than $3,000. (Submitted photo)

Community-driven: graduate researchers make a difference

To spread hope and cheer in Saskatoon, the Office of the Vice-Dean of Research typically runs a charitable donation campaign at the end of each year, during the Christmas break.

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Again, distancing, masks and video conferencing dominated the College of Medicine's second pandemic holiday season. That prompted graduate students Stefany Cornea and Nayoung Kim to issue a departmental challenge.

Help an elementary school.

Cornea and Kim reached out to some of the schools hardest-hit during Saskatoon's Covid-19 pandemic, and asked what their wish lists included.

In this episode, hear why Cornea and Kim chose King George School — and what the donation changes for its students.

We hear from both graduate students, along with King George's vice-principal, Anne-Marie Rollo, who called the donation 'life-changing'.

"For many of our young children being socially isolated really disconnected them from their family, their land, their culture," said Rollo. "We are incredibly excited for this opportunity,"

In December, Kim and Cornea stopped by King George to drop off the $1,300 donated by biomedical researchers.

They hoped it would be enough to send the school's Grade 7 and 8 students on an end-of-year field trip in June.

Graduate students Stefany Cornea, left, and Nayoung Kim. (Submitted photo)
Graduate students Stefany Cornea, left, and Nayoung Kim. (Submitted photo)

But that wasn't where the fundraiser ended.

Cornea, who is doing masters' work characterizing the BRK protein prevalent in both breast cancer and gastric cancer, recalls returning to campus in January.

In the mailbox, she came across an envelope addressed to Dr. Marek Radomski, the Vice-Dean of Research at the College of Medicine.

After she dropped the envelope at his house, Radomski opened it.

Inside he found a cheque for $2,000.

The money was raised by Dr. Mary Kinloch, alumni of the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, and members of the Saskatchewan Regional Medical Association.

Cornea said Radomski was stunned.

"He couldn't believe the number on the cheque. He couldn't believe the generosity," Cornea said.

She said in a typical year, the OVDR would raise roughly third of that total.

"It kind of sheds a different light on what not just biomedical researchers can do, but what the College and the physicians, what we all can do when we put our minds to it," said Nayoung Kim, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biochemistry.

Kim and Cornea said they plan to keep the OVDR in touch with students and staff at King George School.

With a total donation of $3,305, the entire school can now visit Brightwater, a nature reserve just south of Saskatoon.

Parents and family members will also be part of the field trip, which is set for June, according to Rollo.

Kim and Cornea say the idea is a tangible way of investing in Saskatoon's future.

"They're raising people who are going to be providing medical care in our community, maybe raising future students or staff at the College of Medicine," said Cornea.

"It's so cool to see that cycle of support."

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