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Gain An Edge: Achieving College Dreams Through Summer Learning

Thanks to StemForce Bahamas, a grant from Lyford Cay Foundations and support from other donors, Bahamian public-school students like Carmetta Barry have developed a passion for learning science while also carving a path to higher education.

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Carmetta Barry

Carmetta Barry, pictured right, is a member of the Class of 2019 of FOCUS, a Lyford Cay Foundations college access programme. The 2018-2019 Head Girl of C. R. Walker Senior High is also the first Junior Minister for the Environment, who while in grade 11 was selected to participate in StemForce.

How did you learn about the StemForce programme?

When I was in Grade 8 at H.O. Nash Junior High School, a recruiter from StemForce visited and invited students to apply for their summer programme held in the US. I was immediately interested because I love science, geology and the environment.

What were the requirements to apply?

I had to submit an application, my report card and an essay on why I wanted to be involved. I went above and beyond the requirements by including copies of my science certificates and a photo of my trophy case. I was so happy when I learned I was accepted!

Tell us more about your experience in StemForce.

During the programme, we visit various locations and study science topics. We are tested daily and at the end of the summer, there is an overall test. We have to score at least 80 percent to be invited to return the next summer. I have scored an A grade each summer!

I have attended sessions in: Austin, Texas, where we studied rock types; Arizona, where we studied land formations, layers of sedimentary rocks and the development of beaches and sand dunes; and Portland, Oregon, where we studied volcanoes. I got to see an entire lake made of obsidian; it was beautiful because it looked like a huge black glass!

What has being a part of StemForce helped you develop or learn?

I’m shy around new people, but these programmes [FOCUS and StemForce] have helped me develop people skills. I met new people and broadened my horizons, gained knowledge on important scientific issues and narrowed down my career choice.

What advice do you have for students who want to explore science but may be afraid?

Science can be difficult because there is so much information; but if you have a passion for it, work hard, view tutorials on YouTube, and join science programmes at school, you will be just fine.

StemForce Bahamas started in 2015 when Geoforce, an outreach programme of The Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, partnered with the Bahamas Ministry of Education.

To select just the right students for this tuition-free, four-year summer programme, applicants had to go through a competitive process. Qualifications to be considered for StemForce included being a top performing Grade 9 student with at least a 90 percent average in core classes. Students had to also demonstrate interest by writing an essay outlining how they believed the programme would contribute to their career goals.

The programme ambitiously seeks to help students master complex geology and science concepts, gain exposure to college style learning and experience personal growth. StemForce participants have been testing their own limits each summer in The Bahamas and throughout Texas, Arizona, Utah and Oregon. Every day students independently managed their schedules, waking up on their own, preparing for intense 15-16 hour learning days and setting time to study. Being so far from home taught many to push their own boundaries and discover a new realm of capability.

Advanced principles were introduced daily such as the Law of Superposition, differential erosion, plate tectonics and volcano processes, crossbedding and much, much more. Summers began with a pre-test and each day ended with a test on material covered that day.

Although it’s been challenging work, students have loved learning up close in breathtaking locations that have included famous canyons, national parks and even craters. But most importantly, the students have demonstrated dramatic leaps in knowledge with pre-tests scores on topics averaging 43 percent and post-test scores soaring to an average of 83 percent.

When surveyed by StemForce, all students reported they plan to attend college, cited enjoying team building activities and expressed undeniable excitement about beginning their final StemForce summer.

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