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- by  New College News
This summer, New College of Florida hosted two programs for local middle and high school students from June 6 to 17 on campus.

The Students United to Create Culturally and Educationally Successful Situations (SUCCESS) program is for middle school students in grades six to eight. And the high school initiative is the Preparing Unique Students for Healthcare (PUSH) career program for students in grades nine to 11.

This is the 19th year that both programs, aimed at underserved students interested in science and health-related careers, were hosted at New College.

Students participated in activities and discussions on topics such as sea urchin development, carbon sequestration, scientific method, marine pollution, basic statistics, team building and conflict resolution, nutrition, and storytelling using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Students worked on projects in New College’s Heiser Natural Sciences Complex and other spots on campus.

Sandra Gilchrist, Ph.D., a biology professor at New College, has directed the PUSH/SUCCESS programs for the past 18 years (with gaps in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic).

“We had exciting activities to engage the students in connecting the health of the bay with their own health,” Gilchrist said. “A trip to a mangrove island to observe the plants and animals associated with these important trees was a highlight for the students. In addition, we talked about diving physiology of mammals and introduce the students to SCUBA with a pool session at the College.”

This year, two new faculty members were added to the roster. Assistant Professor of Coastal and Marine Science Gerardo Toro-Farmer, Ph.D. introduced the students to GIS and used storytelling to show how this tool can be used in community projects.

Assistant Professor of Human-Centered Computing Tania Roy, Ph.D. presented the students with her marine pollution video game to help them learn about how animals are impacted by pollutants. She used their responses as a part of her research project on human-computer interactions. Returning again this year was Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Brad Oberle, Ph.D., who presented ideas about how native plants help to sequester carbon.

Students also visited the Public Archaeology Lab with Professor of Anthropology and Heritage Studies Uzi Baram, Ph.D.; kayaked on the New College waterfront, and took a trip to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

The high school students got the chance to stay in the dorms for three nights to experience what it might be like to live on a college campus. These students also received additional programming in presentation skills.

“The program can give participating students the skills, confidence and motivation they need to improve their grades and apply for college,” Gilchrist said.

To be considered for the program, students from Sarasota and Manatee counties completed an application, including an essay and a recommendation from a teacher.

On June 17 at the PUSH/SUCCESS graduation, each student made a presentation about what they learned, and received a certificate of participation and a stipend.

For more information on the PUSH/SUCCESS programs, email gilchrist@ncf.edu.