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Crucian Middle Schoolers Selected for Science Program

March 9, 2009 — While other young people hit the beach, five middle school students from Good Hope School will spend their summer vacations doing serious academic work.
Seventh-grade students Senuah Benjamin, Denzel Clifton, Alex Lewit, and Selesha Subnaik, along with eighth grader Natasha Ceballos, will spend six weeks at Southern Methodist University in Texas focusing on the classroom-based work required for the Temple University School of Medicine Physician Scientist Training Program. They have made a commitment to complete the rigorous program activities each summer during their pre-college years. They will join the veteran participants in Texas for the start of the summer residential program, with their first two summers primarily engaged in a six-week classroom-and-research regimen.
"This is a huge opportunity for them to be exposed to lab experience and work with professionals," said Amanda Sackey, Good Hope middle school science teacher.
The Physician Scientist Training Program was established in 1985 to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical arena. The goal is to create a cadre of physicians with the combined MD/Ph.D. degrees.
Selection of participants occurs at the seventh through 10th grade level, and is made on the basis of academic achievements (A-minus or better grades), high Secondary School Assessment Test (SSAT) scores, motivation, maturity and perceived academic potential.
"As their teacher I screen high achievers, approach and encourage individuals who can handle the level of work required," Sackey said.
Benjamin said he is excited about being selected, even though initially he didn't want to do it.
"I was encouraged by my family and teachers, and now I am happy to have been selected," he said.
The Good Hope students are five of only 60 students throughout the United States and territories accepted into tthe prestigious program for 2009.
"This is amazing that I was accepted, because they only accept three eighth graders," Ceballos said. She would like to be a psychologist and will need medical training to administer medications.
Continuing with the program for the next several summers, the Good Hope students will have opportunities to study and work at other universities such as Drexel, Temple, and the University of Pennsylvania. They will then move into experiences with government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, and pharmaceutical companies during their high school years. As college students they will participate in academic work with various schools of medicine in Canada, as well as industry-based work in pharmaceutical companies overseas.
"I feel this is a good opportunity because I want to pursue a career in animal or human medicine," Lewit said.
Subnaik said she wants a career somewhere in the medical arena, and this program will help her decide what field of medicine she wants to go in to.
"I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend the training program," she said.
Clifton has never been to the States, and going there will give him an opportunity to study more science.
"I have always wanted to be a scientist," he said.
The five middle school students join an elite corps of Good Hope students selected over the years to participate in Temple University's program. Including the current group, a total of 11 students have been awarded this opportunity.
Raquel B. Cedano, acting head of Good Hope School, expects great things of the young people.
"Our students continue to excel in so many avenues, and their acceptance into this program demonstrates the dedication of our faculty, the students, and their parents as we promote a learning environment in which each child has the opportunity to find success," Cedano said. "We are so proud of Senuah, Denzel, Alex, Selesha and Natasha, and we know that based on their academic achievement and strength of character that they will contribute tremendously to this program."
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