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Vol. LVIII, No. 8
April 21, 2006

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'SciLife 2006' Career-Planning Pilot Deemed a Success

The Office of Science Education joined forces with area leaders in science education to offer a new program aimed at helping minority and underserved high school students and their parents to consider careers in science and plan ahead. The program, SciLife 2006, was a 1-day Saturday event held in April at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. Development took over a year, and the program was modeled after the highly successful Biomedical Science Careers Program sponsored by Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Mr. and Mrs. Terry Coulette, Sr., brought their son to the day-long workshop.

SciLife 2006 provided area students and their parents with free information, resources and organizational tools to help them plan for college entry and future success in the health and medical sciences. After a joint information session and lunch, parents and students chose separate workshops geared toward their interests. These focused on such practical topics as choosing high school courses that are pivotal for college entry, exploring career options in the health and medical sciences and selecting a college. Workshops for parents focused on topics like financing an education, ways to help their child succeed in school and the process of college admissions.

OSE's Cassandra Isom said, "It was a great success." Addressing the reluctance of participants to conclude one session in order to attend the next, "We had to stop the questions. People were that engaged," she noted. A survey of participants revealed that the program reached the target audience, delivered what students expected and influenced decisions about their education and future careers. Of the students completing the survey, 97 percent indicated that they were 9th graders of a minority ethnic background. The top three reasons students came to the program were to learn how to plan for college, choose a career and finance an education. Ninety percent indicated that the program either met or exceeded their expectations and increased their understanding of how to prepare for college.

Janelle Kawamoto of MDBio, Inc., gives a workshop on exploring health careers.

Survey data also revealed that 43 percent of SciLife students indicated that they were more likely to take additional advanced placement science and math courses after participating in the program. That is good news considering that minority students are underrepresented among students who take AP courses. This puts them at a disadvantage for entering certain career paths, such as those in the medical sciences.

The issue was addressed in the SciLife workshop for students, "All You Ever Wanted to Know About Medical School," led by Georgetown University's Joy Williams. Erin Farrish, a first-year medical student at Georgetown, told students, "AP courses are a great way to prepare yourself for college courses. Take advantage of these classes offered at your high school to better prepare yourself for the college workload and possibly earn college credit."

One student said of the workshop on exploring careers, "It helped me understand where I am in comparison to where I want to be." Another wrote, "After this program, I know that I have a lot of careers to choose from." A third student had a message for program organizers: "Thank you for a great opportunity...I am really glad that someone out there like you guys cares about students like us."

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