July 26, 2002 – Weeks of science lectures, research, experimentation and field trips for more than 70 V.I. students in grades 7 through 12 culminated Thursday evening with the presentation of reports at the closing ceremonies of the V.I. Summer Science Enrichment Academies at the University of the Virgin Islands.
For 12 years, grants from the National Institutes of Health have funded the summer programs at UVI in which young people study under research and teaching faculty and get hands-on laboratory and field experience. Since 2000, increased funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has allowed for expansion of the curriculum to include mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry and other science fields.
This summer, students from throughout the territory participated, seventh and eighth graders on the St. Croix campus and high schoolers on St. Thomas. They stayed in UVI dormitories and attended seminars on such topics as global warming, coral disease, hurricane development, advanced probability, and the medicinal and chemical properties of local plants.
On Thursday evening, at the Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas campus, they presented their group reports, received their certificates, indulged in reminiscences, and with friends and family enjoyed healthy servings of post-ceremony food and merriment.
Rosenid Hernandez Badia, professor of biology, outreach coordinator for UVI's Science and Mathematics Division, and group leader for global warming, spoke glowingly of the SSEA program, saying of the students, "They get into what college is like."
On field trips, she said, "We went everywhere, even the dump," where students saw first hand the inherent dangers of an overtaxed landfill.
The SSEA program's interdisciplinary nature and heavy work load are not for young people just looking for something to do over the summer. "Interest is what we want," not perfect grades, Hernandez stressed.
In addition to the valuable summer enrichment, each student received a stipend of $1,600. Judy Roland, administrative assistant of Emerging Caribbean Scientists and the University, coordinated the program.
Students had good things to say about their experience. Vanelis Rivera, an incoming Educational Complex senior and aspiring forensic pathologist, said she thoroughly enjoyed her weeks on St. Thomas. She said she applied for SSEA because "I wanted to do it, and my counselor recommended it."
Latoya Brathwaite, a member of the CAHS Class of 2002 and Rivera's project partner, said, "It was an enriching experience, and I'm glad I came." Brathwaite will attend UVI in the fall in the hope of pursuing a career as a laboratory pathologist.
Seven UVI students served as teaching and residence assistants. Of his weeks of mentoring the high schoolers, senior computer science major Decoy Mactavious said, "It was a great experience, spending time with the different personalities and getting to know them." Tevar Malone said he felt fortunate to have been involved. "The program taught me leadership skills," the junior math major explained.
In addition to preparing students for science careers, the SSEA program has borne fruit in terms of graduates giving back to the community. Malone participated in the first expanded enrichment academy in 2000 as a recent CAHS graduate. He is planning to pursue graduate work in aeronautics.
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