Henrietta Lacks was an African American tobacco farmer. Her cells (i.e. HeLa), taken without her knowledge in 1951, became important elements for the polio vaccine, cloning, and in vitro fertilization.

In our class, Project RISE, we use Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and the Lacks’ incredible story, to study cell biology, medical ethics, the history of race and medicine, and local health issues, interweaving Language Arts-Reading, Science, and Social Studies.

We are a class of adult learners pursuing our high school equivalency diplomas at the Adult Learning Center at Lehman College, Bronx, NY.

We begin with a study of biography and point of view, looking into how Skloot researched and wrote Henrietta Lacks, before moving onto the topic of medicine and health. We’ll then begin looking at health care from a personal and social perspective.

The topics of cell biology and the biology of cancer will stretch our scientific skills of questioning, investigating, and analyzing, allowing us to use these skills as we move into the more difficult subjects of medical ethics and the history of race and medicine.

As the year ends, we’ll be writing and producing multi-media family histories around themes of health and wellness.

We’ll be using this website to share discussions, ideas, links of interest, and eventually our final projects–follow us.

Project RISE was made possible in part by a grant from American Association of University Women (AAUW).