School districts often like to talk about the various opportunities that are given to students in their buildings, particularly those afforded to upperclassmen in the various high schools.
Recently the Mineola Board of Education held a presentation during their meeting on February 2 at the Willis Avenue School on some of the opportunities given to its students through several partnerships with outside organizations including Winthrop University Hospital, Adelphi University and Molloy College.
The collaboration with Winthrop began in 2010 as a framework for students to conduct research there. As part of the Explorers program, students meet at the hospital once per month and were given tours of the facilities.
“The goal of it really is to expose students to all of the different career paths that can be taken at the hospital,” high school science instructional leader John Gollisz said.
Students are given the opportunity to intern in at the hospital and explore their area of interest. The district is also working on special education students being laced in the hospital so they can have an easier transition to adult services.
“Our researchers and scientists are so excited to have these students in their lab,” Winthrop Director of Grants and Special Programs Diane Bachor said of the students placed in the hospital’s research lab. “They have opportunities as well. They learn to interact with professionals, scientists, with people of all levels. They build professional skills, interpersonal skills and actually form relationships with us so their future career goals might be with Winthrop. We hope to keep the here on Long Island, if they’ll pick a college here on Long Island, come back to Winthrop and stay with us and work within their community.”
Dr. Ellen McGlade-McCulloh, also of Winthrop, discussed the advantages of the science research program which has grown over the past 4 years from simply an introductory to research class to having advanced research classes for students in grades 10 through 12. “The program allows the students to grow and develop not only as young scientists but to build their self-esteem,” she said.
A trio of students were also present to tell the board about their experiences in the program.
Karen Lee, a senior who spent the summer of 2011 as an immunology intern at the hospital said that “before going to the research experience I was a little nervous about it because it was something I’d never done before, I was a little scared but over the course of being at the lab... I thought it was going to be very strict and nerve-wracking but it was actually not because they treated me as a colleague and they actually taught me a lot.”
Brianna Lee said that despite being an ESL student, “the research was challenging but I think the experience was definitely rewarding. Now I found an interest in science and I’m not pursuing an interest in biology and I want to continue to research at college.” Lee conducted her research on mutant auxins and their response to light.
Fellow senior Jose Barajas went to Hofstra for his research on “curving nitrous oxides released from advental furoxans,” which tested chemical compounds called dimental furoxins to find the amount of nitric oxide released by the molecules. “I was treated as a colleague with Hofstra and it was really cool because you have a lot of freedom there in the lab,” he said, noting his desire to major in chemistry. “I ran into a lot of trouble but I also received a lot of constructive criticism from the undergrads and my mentor.”
“I’m happy to hear that the school is able to place you in laboratories where you get to explore your interests and the experience that you’ve had there is wonderful,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said to Barajas.
The second partnership is a reading collaboration between the district and Adelphi University.
Mineola High School english teacher Mary Ann Beach and Adelphi School of Education associate professor Dr. Diana M. Feige had worked together for 8 years on the collaboration, doing literacy projects including improving the literacy of high school students as well as people in Kenya.
“Some of the benefits of our collaboration have been that our students now dream about going to college,” Beach said. “They now think that this is a dream they can have.”
Beach held up a collaborative book made by students containing memoirs and poetry writing from last year titled “What we See Outside Our Window” which was sent to Africa with African students sending their version back to Mineola.
“I have always felt that you are giving us so much by allowing our student-teachers to live in your midst,” Dr. Feige said. “I always felt that we must do something in return which is partly how this all started with a small bookclub after school.”
The third collaboration, known as the Latina Program, is a partnership with Molloy College which was started in the 2004-05 school year after high school ESL teacher Marie Watson began reading about the dropout statistics for latina high school students. The latina population is the third largest demographic in the district.
“Molloy has tried to show the girls that there are many career options available to them and we hope that the latina girls see their role as a woman a little differently than they did before,” Watson said, noting that she has seen a reduction of discipline problems and improved or maintained grades. There are currently 10 girls in the program this year but there has been as many as 20 in past years.
“Molloy has a long tradition of mentoring,” said Dr. Maddy Gunn, the director of experimental learning at Molloy. “So when Marie came to us with this idea, we completely embraced it and understood it and were very excited to launch this program.”
The group plan activities throughout the academic year, including meeting Spanish professors to learn about different career options. “A lot of these young girls, they don’t realize that their bilingualness is a marketable skill,” Dr. Gunn said.
“The goal of the program is to empower young latinas and to keep in mind that there’s more after high school, that you don’t have to settle for high school, that college should be your goal,” said Wendy Espinosa, who is enrolled in the program. “I really don’t know what I want to do but I do know that there are more options through the mentoring program.”
“The common denominator throughout all of this is you have to have partnerships and you have to be real partners that we just don’t send our kids there and that’s it,” Dr. Nagler said. “It’s the connections that make our high school viable, unique and competitive’s the wrong word but certainly enough experiences during their tenure.”