StemForce participants to complete pilot program as corporate Bahamas rallies to assist in funding shortfall crisis
The 26 student participants in the pilot StemForce Bahamas program will be able to complete their final year, as corporate Bahamas rallied behind the program with commitments to ensure it would happen, after the final year was in jeopardy due to a lack of finances.
Since May 1, nine companies — Aliv, Equinor (former Statoil), Grand Bahama Port Authority, Osprey Construction Company, Pharmachem Technologies, Rubis, Sun Oil Bahamas, Sun Oil Freeport and TK Foundation — in The Bahamas, and four companies/individuals in Texas, stepped up and committed a collective $39,500 to ensure that what for three years has been an amazing journey for 26 public school students can be completed. The students selected to participate in the four-year StemForce Bahamas (SFB) program have come from schools on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Long Island.
The estimated budget for the 2018 program, which includes five days on Andros and two on New Providence, is $49,000.
“I am happy to report that we will be able to compete the fourth and final year of the StemForce Bahamas program for the current cohort of 26 students,” said Paul Gucwa, who brought the program to The Bahamas. “The response of corporate Bahamas has been amazing. Speaking for myself, the StemForce staff and the students, we are extremely grateful for their interest and support. Given the strong showing, we are confident and will move forward with the 2018 program.”
Matthew Darville, a student at N.G.M. Major School on Long Island, was excited he and the remainder of the cohort would be able to complete their fourth year.
“I would like to say thank you to all the generous donors that are funding this program, which is so beneficial to me and my fellow StemForce members. It would have been very disappointing to not be able to conclude our journey together,” said Darville.
“In past years we have learned about rivers, volcanoes, plateaus, canyons and other amazing geological features of our planet, how they were formed, and how they impact the future of our planet. I can truly say that this exposure to the geosciences has encouraged me to pursue a career in this field, and also to question and be more involved in our environment. I appreciate the opportunity to continue furthering my education, and am very appreciative for the efforts of the StemForce team.”
For the past three consecutive summers, students in the program have taken STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning outside the four walls of the classroom to spectacular geological settings. This summer they are to focus on The Bahamas and the Caribbean, spending five days at the ForFar Research Facility on Andros learning about environmental and geologic processes important to The Bahamas.
In addition to the field aspect of the program, students are expected to research and prepare a paper on the topic of renewable energy.
They are also expected to spend two days on New Providence with visits scheduled to a number of companies that employ science, technology, engineering and math professionals, so they can become more aware of possible opportunities in The Bahamas.
“This program builds bridges and gives us the tools to build more,” said Rashon Neymour, a student at S.C. Bootle High School “It exposes young people to what’s out there in the world and is an experience that I’ll never forget. It’s awe-inspiring.”
Last summer, the inaugural cohort visited the Pacific Northwest United States (Oregon and Washington State) to study plate tectonics and volcanology in their third year. They visited Mt. St. Helens, the Columbia River Gorge, Crater Lake, Mt. Hood, Newberry Caldera and made several stops along the Oregon coast.
Students attended a lecture each evening, and at each field stopover they were given college-level material from a research scientist. They were quizzed each evening on what they had learned daily, and given pre-and-post tests. They also engaged in team-building activities to foster peer bonding.
In 2016, the students visited the Southwestern United States and Arizona, where they focused on stratigraphy while visiting Zion National Park, Checkerboard Mesa, Horseshoe Bend, Balanced Rock, The Grand Canyon, Yavapai Museum of Geology, South Kaibab Trail and Sunset Crater.
In their first year, the then group of ninth grade students studied sedimentary processes for six days in Austin, Texas, after spending three days on New Providence looking at beach processes and visiting sites.
“The first three years of the program is focused on what we call the ‘wow’ portion of the program and is focused on expanding the students’ perspective of their world — travel to spectacular geologic sites; reinforcing good habits and study skills; emphasizing geosciences and engineering; and giving the students the tools, confidence and motivation to achieve high school graduation and to pursue college,” said Gucwa.
In the fourth and final year, he said the overarching theme is to bring the focus back to The Bahamas and to focus the students on the future of the country and to begin to think about their roles in that future.
“We will again use a spectacular geologic setting as the classroom, spending five days on Andros, focusing on geologic processes and evolution of The Bahamas. In addition, we hope to begin to lift their vision of the future of The Bahamas by research and discussing the topic of sustainable energy. We [also] plan to schedule visits with Bahamian companies that make heavy use of science, technology, engineering and math in their daily work so that the students can begin to understand the types of employment opportunities available to them in The Bahamas. By bringing the program focus back to The Bahamas, we want them to begin to think about their future in The Bahamas as leaders in their family, their school, their church, their community and, hopefully one day, as leaders in their country. Year four of the program is to get them to begin to dream about the future of The Bahamas,” said Gucwa.
To be selected for the program students had to be high achievers in public school, have an interest in math and science, maintain at least a B grade average, have a teacher’s recommendation and pen an essay.
Qualifications and essays were reviewed and selections made by staff at The University of Texas. Students are required to maintain their high averages to remain in the four-year program.
Through the program, Gucwa said the students were developing the drive, initiative and thought processes to go to college.
“StemForce is the best thing that has happened to me,” said Aailyah Adderley, a student at N.G.M. Major School on Long Island.
Charles Darville, also a student at N.G.M. Major, said the program has forced him to be a better person socially and encourages him to continue making strides educationally.
“I am more aware of the geological aspects of our planet, and how they relate to our future, and the program has helped to direct my focus into a career in the sciences. Knowing that I can see my friends again and that I can explore more of the world, especially within our country, is so amazing. Coming from a small Family Island, opportunities like this one do not come around often, and I am just so thankful that I can continue on such a thrilling adventure.”
With the news that she would be able to complete her fourth year, Rachelle Joseph, a student at Anatol Rodgers High School, offered up a Colin Powell quote: “‘A dream doesn’t become reality through magic, but it takes sweat, determination and hard work’. This quote is the true meaning of success, and I believe that there is no limit and that we can be whatever we wish to become just through perseverance and determination. There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes, but with hard work, there are no limits,” she said.
The current group of students was recruited from public schools on three islands while they were in eighth grade. Their four-year program was conceived as a pilot program to be expanded to additional Family Islands and students. The vision was to recruit 25 to 30 students each year and ultimately have about 100 students participating at various levels each year.
Andre Major, C.V. Bethel Senior High School; Conrad Newry, C.R. Walker Senior High School; Ketora Clarke, Eight Mile Rock High School; Garvinique Smith, C.V. Bethel Senior High School; Cheyanne Powell, Anatol Rodgers High School; Kencha Toussaint, C.R. Walker Senior High School; Candice Colebrooke, St. George’s High School; Carmetta Barry, C.R. Walker Senior High School; Charity Sands, R.M. Bailey Senior High School; Conrad Newry, C.R. Walker Senior High School; Ishmael McCartney, Doris Johnson Senior High School; Jhaliyah Lewis, C.R. Walker Senior High School; Kail’lyn Malcolm, C.V. Bethel Senior High School; Kristan Major, C.V. Bethel Senior High School; Nova Wright, C.V. Bethel Senior High School; Precious Rolle, D.W. Davis Junior High School; Salasha McBride, Sir Jack Hayward High School; Tametrya Brown, Government High School; Vashanti Storr, S.C. McPherson Junior High School; Jagroo Vasudev, C.V. Bethel Senior High School; Waynesha Thompson, Eight Mile Rock High School; and William Dillett, C.R. Walker Senior High School were the other students comprising the first cohort of participants.
“We have always considered this first cohort of students to be a ‘pilot’ phase, where we learned how to improve the program and opportunity, how the students would do. We have learned much [and] the students have been exceptional. With this short-term funding crisis behind us, we can now return our focus to the future and to the expansion of the program to include additional Family Islands and more students. To do this we intend to develop a broader engagement with the educational community in The Bahamas, and continue our communication and fundraising effort. I would encourage companies/individuals who are beginning to plan their 2019 budgets to consider support of the StemForce program,” said Gucwa.