Virgin Islands students are participating in the 2017 STEMPREP Project at the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
For five weeks this summer, junior high school students: Maya Griffith, Good Hope Country Day School; Brent Biscoe, Antilles School; and Branden Hodge, John H. Woodson Jr. High School will learn basic laboratory science techniques, experiments and procedures, technology and engineering concepts and labs, research writing skills, research presentation and research statistics.
While senior high school students Bryah Martin, All Saints Cathedral School; Nyla Griffth, Good Hope Country Day School; Jebron Perkins, St. Croix Educational Complex; Jada Rommer, Good Hope Country Day School; Segen Assefa formerly of St. Thomas; and Claudia Walker, Peter Gruber International Academy will utilize the skills they acquired in junior high to work in basic science laboratories under the direct supervision of assigned mentor scientists.
These trainees are part of The STEMPREP Project, a (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) STEM training program for high achieving, underrepresented minority students. For the past 27 years, the project has been driven by a training model that supports a national pool of underrepresented minority 7th graders across a 10-year period (junior high, senior high, college) and a multi-institutional mentorship approach that rotates these trainees through STEM labs in academia, the government, private research institutes and the pharmaceutical industry.
The project provides a year-round support platform to the national pool of trainees. The relevance of this revolutionary training program is that it produces significant numbers of underrepresented minority STEM advanced degree holders. The STEMPREP trainees are drawn from minority populations underrepresented in the STEM arena: African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans. Students in the STEMPREP Project experience the benefits of preparation for biomedicine, participation in a positive peer network, acquisition of above grade level scientific knowledge and preparation for AP level science courses. They also serve as school/community ambassadors for the STEM.
In the 2002-2003 school year, officials from the Distance Learning Center shared information about the STEMPREP program with the V.I. Department of Education. In the summer of 2003, the first cadres of Virgin Islands trainees were admitted into the program. VI trainees have participated every summer since the inaugural class. To date, 13 schools and approximately 60 trainees have completed the summer internships.
The program cost is $5,500 per trainee to include courses, housing, dining, supplies, uniforms, supervision and weekend events. In April 2016, The Distance Learning Center STEMPREP Project lost funding supplied by the Department of Defense. This lost has jeopardized the participation of V.I. trainees in need of financial assistance. Due to the lack of funding nine additional students were accepted but were unable to attend.
The V.I. Lottery Sponsorship provided a $1000 grant in accordance with its “Make A Difference Pillars” — Education, Economic and Business Development, and Health and Public Welfare — that have a positive impact on the community. Valance Corporation’s Warren Mosler donated $250. The STEMPREP Project applauds these two groups for investing in the students.
The STEMPREP Project is calling on private citizens, the medical community, EDC companies and government agencies to support this valuable program.