Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in SRQMagazine.com on June 22, 2019
About 40 middle and high school students spent two weeks on the New College of Florida campus learning about marine science, biomedicine and scientific method through a series of hands-on learning opportunities. Led by Professor of Biology Sandra Gilchrist for the past 17 years, the PUSH/SUCCESS program largely attracts local students from underrepresented minorities.
PUSH (Preparing Unique Students for Healthcare careers) is designed for 9th, 10th, and 11th graders, while SUCCESS (Students United to Create Culturally and Educationally Successful Situations) focuses on students in grades six through eight. New College partnered with Unidos Now to recruit students from the local Hispanic/Latinx community to participate in the program, and also, for the first time, two students from Puerto Rico enrolled.
This year’s program, which received grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Environmental Discovery internship with the Cross-College Alliance, and the HDR Foundation, did projects with the EPA grant focused on carbon cycling as well as the impact of microplastics on marine life supported by HDR. Students conducted research both in our Pritzker Marine Science Research Center and around Sarasota Bay to understand the toll of pollution and climate change on our local habitat.
They participated in field trips to gather marine life samples from the bay, measure salinity levels in local pine trees by viewing lengths of needles, and investigate the health of native plants. On campus, they engaged in robotics and physiology experiments, learned computer language coding skills, and participated in a basic scuba diving course in our pool. High school students also stayed in our residence halls, experiencing for the first time the opportunity to live and learn on a college campus.
On Friday, June 14, in our Sainer Auditorium, these students made their group presentations and received their program completion certificates. We celebrated their success and encouraged their burgeoning interest in the sciences. The health of our society rests on such students.
— Donal O’Shea is president of New College of Florida.