Virgin Islands students are participating in the 2017 STEMPREP Project at the University of Washington, Seattle and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, this summer.
For five weeks, junior high school students Maya Griffith of Good Hope Country Day School, Brent Biscoe of Antilles School and Branden Hodge of 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.
Senior high school students Bryah Martin of All Saints Cathedral School, Nyla Griffth of Good Hope Country Day School, Jebron Perkins of St. Croix Educational Complex, Jada Rommer of Good Hope Country Day, Segen Assefa, formerly of St. Thomas and Claudia Walker of Peter Gruber International Academy are utilizing 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 STEM training program for “high achieving” underrepresented minority students. For 27 years, the STEMPREP Project has been driven by a training model that supports a national pool of underrepresented minority seventh-graders across 10 years (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 and has produced significant numbers of underrepresented minority STEM advanced degree holders. The STEMPREP trainees are drawn from minority populations underrepresented in the STEM arena, namely African Americans, Mexican Americans, native Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans.
Students experience the benefits of preparation for biomedicine, participation in a positive peer network, acquisition of above-grade-level scientific knowledge, preparation for AP level science courses, and serve as school/community ambassadors for STEM.
In the 2002-03 school year, officials from the Distance Learning Center shared information about the STEMPREP program with the V.I. Education Department. In the summer of 2003, the first Virgin Islands trainees were admitted into the program. They 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 from the Defense Department. This has jeopardized the participation of Virgin Islands 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 $1,000 grant in accordance with its “Make A Difference Pillars”: Education, Economic and Business Development, and Health and Public Welfare. Valance Corporation’s Warren Mosler donated $250.