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      STEM Academy Students Partner with Widener Professors for Scholarship Win

      Carlie Sisco, English and creative writing, '19


      Kamara Staples and Geanna Barnett, both members of the Widener University chapter of EnvironMentors, received scholarships in June at the National Fair and Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

      Two students at STEM Academy in the Chester Upland School District took home the first and second place scholarships this June at the National Fair and Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. for their research conducted in the Widener University chapter of EnvironMentors.

      Developed by the National Council for Science and the Environment, EnvironMentors serves as a youth mentoring and college preparation program for underrepresented high school students across the country.

      With the help of Widener University environmental science professors, Kamara Staples and Geanna Barnett conducted year-long research leading up to the National Fair and Awards Ceremony where students from all over the country meet to present their research and compete for scholarships.

      For her research, Staples focused on truth in the safety of environmentally friendly products given their cost. With the help of Professor Dr. Bruce Grant and Dr. Doris Politz, Staples explored issues of dose related toxicity and learned that plant derived ingredients can still have toxic effects depending on the dosage.

      Barnett, whose project centered around the impact trees have on cleaning the air, followed up on research Associate Professor Dr. Chad Freed and Professor Dr. Stephen Madigosky conducted surrounding the condition of trees in three Chester neighborhoods. Her findings led to additional questions about the impact of temperature and rainfall trends.

      The collaborative process between high school students and college professors to identify a local problem, as well as the students’ desire to form conclusions, intrigued professor and Director of the Science Teaching Center Dr. Nadine McHenry to launch a chapter of EnvironMentors at Widener in 2015.

      “I was impressed with the level of commitment and understanding that these young people possessed,” McHenry said. “They were passionate because they directed the learning and had the resources in the form of both expert mentorship and facilities that would allow them to conduct an authentic investigation.”

      McHenry believes EnvironMentors is an opportunity for college professors to share their passion with students in a more individualized manner than what they might experience in classrooms and labs. She sees this as an invaluable experience for high school students to learn what it is like to be a scientist and conduct an investigation from its inception to its conclusion using materials and resources that the university can provide.

      Dr. Karen May, assistant professor and the director of Widener’s chapter of EnvironMentors, finds the program also provides Widener with the opportunity to engage with and demonstrate commitment to the Chester community.

      “Chester has a long history of environmental activism,” May said. “The university’s role is to engage high school students in this discussion and provide meaningful ways for them to take a role in protecting their community.”


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