Promoting science among girls, minority students

October 05, 2001|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE MARYLAND Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in North Laurel celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

MESA, which encourages minority and female students to consider careers in the sciences, has grown from offering programs at two schools in 1976 to operating free programs at more than 155 schools statewide today.

According to Deputy Director Norma Boyd, MESA offers a range of academic support services at all levels, from elementary to high schools, throughout Maryland. The Howard County co-coordinator of the programs is Harold Williams, formerly a biochemist with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Five years ago, after a career investigating blood diseases and then as lab director of the Washington office of the chief medical examiner, Williams was tapped to serve as co-coordinator by Jackie Brown of the Office of Academic Support of the Howard County public schools. Williams found that his new post was similar in some ways to his old ones.

"It's what I had been doing all along," Williams said. "We had young people in the labs every summer. I want to make sure that students don't grow up with the stereotype that math-based studies are difficult. If they get a good background in math, they can have fun doing it."

MESA program directors have worked hard to ensure that the program coordinates well with the school curriculum and the needs of students as they progress through their academic careers.

Examples of these are the MESA programs at Laurel Woods Elementary, Murray Hill Middle and Atholton High: The programs make it possible for students to participate in after-school activities and get transportation home.

In the middle and high school programs, MESA offers not just tutoring in science, but assistance with public speaking (with a bit of help from Toastmasters) and writing. "A scientist can be very good, but you have to communicate what you find - both orally and in writing," said Boyd, explaining the rationale behind these nonscience offerings.

Other types of help and guidance are offered to students. "What we do is we encourage them to take the necessary courses in middle and high schools to prepare them for science majors [in college]," Williams said.

In addition, the program offers opportunities to compete in national contests such as the National Society of Black Engineers Trymathalon.

Parents who want more information about this program are urged to call their school's principal.

The program is offered in only 18 Howard County schools, but Williams said that should not deter anyone: If there is enough interest at a school, MESA will establish a program there quickly. And, students from schools that do not have a program are welcome to participate at another school.

Information about the program:

MESA doesn't forget its charges after 12th grade. As a fitting sendoff to college - more than 70 percent of last year's MESA seniors are majoring in the sciences this year - MESA offers scholarships to the seniors. Of course, before the group can give away scholarships, it has to acquire funds.

MESA will sponsor a jazz concert Oct. 14 by local sax and keyboard player Norman Evans from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Kossiakoff Center at the Applied Physics Lab. "Jamming for Scholarships" also will feature the Paul L. Dunbar High School Jazz Ensemble; afterward, light refreshments will be served. Tickets are $30 each.

Information about the concert or the MESA program: Maria James, 240-228-5382.

Book clubs

The Savage branch library is gearing up for snuggle-up-with-a-good-book season (known to the rest of us as winter) with book discussion groups. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, join the discussion of Murder on the Yellow Brick Road.

For younger readers, a Saturday afternoon parent-child book club will meet at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 13 to discuss No More Dead Dogs.

Call the library to get copies of these books and to register for the program. The librarians want to know how many readers to expect at the sessions.

Information: 410-880-5980.

Children's choir

One of the nicer aspects of life in a small village like Savage is cooperation among neighbors. For example, most years the local churches join for a Thanksgiving holiday service. This year, the service will be held a bit early, on Nov. 18.

As a bonus, children from Savage will sing in the choir. Elementary-age children from Savage and Jessup are invited to lift their voices in harmony as part of the Savage Children's Choir for this event.

Participants must attend two rehearsals and arrive at the service 45 minutes early. Practices will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 5 and Nov. 16 at Bethel Assembly of God.

Information: Pastor Joy Hemler, 301-498-3344.

Bazaar, flea market, fair

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Laurel will hold a Bazaar, Flea Market and Fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on the church grounds. Food, crafts, collectibles and a flea market are planned.

In addition, the choir has prepared a concert of selections from The Sound of Music.

It's a great way to spend a Saturday morning: Eat a good breakfast, shop for bargains and attend a concert.

The church is at 7607 Old Sandy Spring road in Laurel.

Information: 301-725-1666.

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