A “Global Village” Effort Provides Enhanced Science-Based Education to Local School System

Investing in the future of our youth, contributing to the local community and building strong civic relationships – these concepts inspired the creation of an innovative, science-based program that is now part of the eighth grade science curriculum in Johnston County. It’s called Discover the Plasma.

The science module was created through a collaborative effort among the healthcare company, Grifols, and two school entities: Johnston Community College (JCC) and Johnston County Schools (JCS). The program teaches students about the life-saving proteins found in human plasma and how these proteins can be transformed into medicine that improves the lives of people with rare and chronic conditions. The module is taught through engaging and interactive methods, using virtual and hands-on techniques, both in the classroom and through independent studies. The students engage in diagnosing patients with various symptoms, performing laboratory experiments, and interacting with a specialty website that includes a virtual lab, developed just for this program.

“Student engagement soars when they participate in Discover the Plasma’s diverse activities, from hands-on labs to games in which they solve medical mysteries. Even more than that, though, is the connection students feel with Grifols when they learn about the many employment opportunities available to them right here, in their own community,” said Clayton Middle School Eighth Grade Science Teacher, Evan Dempster.

Grifols is a global healthcare company with more than 175 plasma donor centers in the U.S., and maintains the world’s largest and most modern fractionation facility, located in Clayton. Fractionation is the process of separating vital proteins found in human plasma that are then used to produce medicines for people with missing or deficient proteins. The company is also Johnston County’s largest private employer.

The concept began with Grifols’ global museum curator, who was looking for a way to educate young people in the Clayton area about the importance of plasma and to provide awareness about the company. “I originally thought, ‘How about a traveling museum that would visit each school?’ But the more we researched the best way to present this educational message to kids, we knew we had to have something engaging and intriguing to hold a 13-year-old’s interest,” said Grifols Corporate Heritage Manager, Rosa Avella, who is based in Grifols Barcelona, Spain headquarters.

The concept was presented to JCS, and from there, grew into a county-wide, comprehensive science program “We appreciate the opportunity to team and collaborate with the good folks at Grifols. Based on my observations, this is relevant learning at its peak performance,” said Superintendent of Johnston County Public Schools, Dr. D. Ross Renfrow. “When you have students that are engaged and can have hands-on experiences, it truly impacts learning.  When I hear stories about students who were exposed to this several years ago, now they are in high school and because of the affiliation with Grifols, they are considering this field of study. That is what makes this type of partnership important.  We want to take what we are currently doing and expand it to involve as many of our Johnston County Public Schools students in this type of high quality learning opportunity.”

Grifols and JCS approached JCC to create a curriculum. The pilot program launched in the 2014-15 school year, and included three schools: Clayton Middle; Selma Middle; and Riverwood Middle. The pilot was so successful that the program rolled out to all 12 Johnston County middle schools and is having a positive, lasting effect on students. “We are seeing a direct correlation between Discover the Plasma and an increased interest in the Career and College Promise program, offered to high school students with interest in biotechnology. It allows students to take college-level courses through Johnston Community College. Students regularly tell me, it was the Discover the Plasma class that piqued their interest to explore science-based college opportunities,” said Johnston Community College Director of Biotechnology, Leslie Holston.

“We have a vested interest in this community,” said Grifols Quality Director, Amy Durham. “Our employees’ children attend the local schools here. Many of our future employees will come directly from those grade schools. So, it makes sense to educate those children on exactly what is going on behind the walls of this massive facility, and how they can choose one day, to become part of this 75-year legacy effort to make better and healthier lives for people around the world, or, to pursue other science-based careers.”

“It may be cliché to say, but it truly does take a village. And, in this case, it’s a global village. We are so proud to be a member of this partnership, contributing to the future leaders and workforce of this community, and are extremely pleased with the results,” said President of Grifols Therapeutics Inc., Juan Antonio Garcia Diaz.

Currently, Grifols is reviewing opportunities to expand Discover the Plasma in Los Angeles, where the company maintains a major manufacturing facility. To learn more about Discover the Plasma, visit discovertheplasma.com.