The way Idana Espinoza sees it, she was blessed.

Her father was a dentist and her mother was a high school guidance counselor. But growing up in the small town of Manassa, a traditionally poor and underserved area about 25 miles south of Alamosa in the San Luis Valley, Espinoza saw firsthand what opportunity can do. She saw her father lend his services to those around that couldn’t afford it. She saw her mother help others pursue education they didn’t think possible.

Now Espinoza, a third-year student in Regis’ Doctor of Pharmacy program, is finding ways she can shape the next generation.

Along with counseling student Lauren Skuba, physical therapy student Gabriella Aragon, nursing student Liberty Kim and fellow pharmacy student Linda Truong, Espinoza helped start a Diversity Initiative Program with Colorado GEAR UP. It evolved as the students were looking to partner with an organization that was dedicated to helping underserved students succeed in higher education.

Espinoza sat down with to talk about the initiative and the influence of Regis and its Jesuit mission.

You have an undergraduate in food science and human nutrition, and a master’s in public health. Why pharmacy and why Regis?

With Regis, it was the service component. There are smaller class sizes and the service was rooted in the Jesuit mission. It resonated with my public health background. Here, we’re always exploring how to help those underserved. With pharmacy, there are many more options to do patient care. Outside the clinic setting you have more access to the patients. You see them in the community.

How did the partnership with Colorado GEAR UP start and how did you guys decide what to present?

As a group, we knew it was important to pull in all the health care professions and have it be an interprofessional event. We wanted to make it interactive. We wanted to show the kids, this is what you’d be doing if you’re a pharmacist, nurse, counselor or physical therapist. We split up each group and had a station. The nurses did vital signs, the counselors did art therapy, the physical therapists did balance tests, and pharmacy had them use candy to fill prescriptions, properly label them and package them.

What did you learn?

My biggest thing was seeing how excited and happy the kids were. It meant the world to see that. Events like this fit well with Regis’ mission of serving the underserved. Providing opportunities to pursue higher education is part of that mission. We want them here. The academic environment is enriched when you have people from all over. You get to have more experiences and gain better perspective.

Find out how Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions can help you change lives.