South San Francisco High School campus

The Life Cycle of Biotech Students at SSFUSD

Students from El Camino and South City High School participate in Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.
Students enrolled in biotechnology classes at El Camino and South San Francisco High Schools recently took part in a day-long field trip to Genentech on February 8, 2024. 
The annual event, dubbed Job Shadow Day, is an example of the unique partnership between the biotech company and South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD). 
“Genentech has hosted Job Shadow Day for 26 years,” said Suzanne Lee, Genentech’s director of employee and community engagement. “It’s meant to get South City students excited about the range of career pathways available in our industry.”
At Job Shadow Day, Genentech employees guided students through a series of workshops designed to illustrate various phases of the product development life cycle and the jobs associated with it. 
South City High junior Revee Reboredo (center) looks on during a marketing workshop at Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.
South City junior Revee Reboredo was participating in a marketing workshop, which had students brainstorming ideas about how to promote a fictional product that changes a person’s eye color.
She said she liked being able to talk with Genentech employees and work with her peers to present their ideas. 
“When you think of Genentech or pharmaceutical companies, I think that lab work and more ‘science-y’ angles come to mind,” said Revee, “but it’s important to keep in mind that there are a lot of different opportunities at a company rather than just those.”
South City High junior Annalyn Huerta participates in a data visualization workshop during Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.
In addition to marketing, students also learned about developing and manufacturing medicines, data visualization, using augmented or virtual reality to support medical research, negotiating licensing agreements, and the impact of financial considerations on the product development process.
South City High students participate in an informatics workshop during Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.
“The students have been awesome,” said Genentech Senior Business Process Manager Kim Shy. “There have been some really, really insightful questions and a really good understanding of how one decision will impact things down the line, so they’re really looking ahead, which is what finance is always having to do.”
Career Technical Education
The biotechnology curriculum at El Camino and South City High teaches students lab techniques and skills that are directly applicable to the research, development, and manufacturing functions of a major biotech company like Genentech.
According to SSFUSD Director of Innovation Jason Brockmeyer, that was the intention. 
"The biotech pathway is an integral component of our district's career technical education program," said Brockmeyer. "We have designed pathways within the CTE program that focus on preparing students for future careers in STEM fields.
High school students in SSFUSD who receive a “C” or better in biology can elect to enroll in the biotechnology pathway in tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade. 
In fact, many biotech students end up finishing high school having taken more than four full years of science classes.
El Camino senior Jhane Portilla has almost completed the entire biotechnology sequence. 
El Camino High senior Jhane Portilla (right) participates in a finance workshop at Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.
“It’s good. It’s a unique experience,” said Jhane. “I really like science, and I get to do hands-on labs every day.”
El Camino High alum and biotech teacher Michael Diaz at Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.Michael Diaz graduated from El Camino High in 2017 and returned in 2022 to become the school’s new biotech instructor.

“I was actually able to attend Job Shadow Day in my junior year—I think that was the spring of 2016,” said Diaz. “It’s amazing to really come back and see how the program has grown and now be a part of continuing to help it grow more and support these students who are very passionate about science and the STEM field.”

A Unique Partnership 

Since 2015, SSFUSD has partnered with Genentech on an educational initiative called Futurelab to foster scientific curiosity among the district’s elementary, middle, and high school students. 

As part of this initiative, the construction of a cutting-edge laboratory facility known as the Science Garage was completed in 2017.

“We launched Futurelab to get kids excited about science, to create pathways into STEM careers for more students in our own community, and to help build a more diverse and inclusive future of science—starting in our own backyard,” said Kristin Campbell Reed, Genentech’s senior director of corporate and employee giving.
The Science Garage is located at South City High, but biotech students at El Camino High have also been making use of the facility since the 2021-22 school year, a development that underscores SSFUSD’s commitment to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Rocky Ng, who has taught biotechnology at South City High for almost seven years, said that South San Francisco is a center for biotech innovation, so it’s important for students to understand the opportunities available to them.
South City High biotech teacher Rocky Ng (second from right) laughs it up with students during lunch at Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.
“Even though the Science Garage is beautiful. . .they [students] have no exposure to what the other side of town looks like,” said Ng. “Having them just walking into the [Genentech] building and seeing that this is what my hometown is like, they may realize that they might be able to work here one day.”
Diaz agreed.
“This group of kids this year is very curious. They’re very passionate, and they’re always looking at different ways to expand their depths of knowledge, to really look at different hands-on opportunities that are open to them. Many of them have come up to me asking if I know of any summer internships or opportunities volunteering-wise that are open to them, and many of them are sophomores, so it’s very limited, but just seeing how much they’re pursuing this already at such a young age is amazing to me.” 
Students from El Camino and South City High School attend Genentech's Job Shadow Day on February 8, 2024.