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Program caters to aspiring scientists


Kristin Mamrack



Room 216 of Hooper Science Hall, a laboratory in Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Thursday overflowed with the excitement of aspiring engineers, doctors, lawyers, anesthesiologists and physicists, preparing to launch small, handmade rockets. 


As a boys'' institute summer research program -- sponsored by 100 Black Men of the Golden Triangle and MSMS -- concluded, the students explained how they benefited from the week-long program, during which they lived in an MSMS dorm and enjoyed recreation activities, day- and night-time classroom instruction and a different leadership speaker each day. 


"We''ve learned about science," said Jim Cunningham, 14, of Columbus, who explained Newton''s Third Law of Motion, which is "for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction." "(And) I like the math part a lot, because I like to solve problems and I like dealing with numbers. 


"We live in dorms, so it''s given me experience on how people live," the Lee Middle School student and son of Andrea Cunningham added. "We use high-tech stuff. It''s given me an idea of how college classrooms look. I got a chance to experience auditoriums and (large classrooms)." 


Cunningham plans to practice law and then start his own business. 


Ivan Goodwin, 14, of Noxubee County wants to be an engineer. 


"We strive for this to happen," the son of Tiny and Albert Goodwin said of the program, for which boys compete and are selected based on their academic performance. "And it''s helping us get a little bit closer and further our own education and what we want to do. 


"It''s just like college," he continued. "It''s letting you know how it''s going to be. It helps you learn about the way college is going to go and the way it''s going to be, so when we get up there, we''re already used to it." 


One of Bryan Dickerson''s favorite aspects of the program is the recreational activities in which the boys participate every day. 


"I don''t really get a chance to play pool and swim a lot and I have a chance to swim (here) everyday," Dickerson, 13, of Columbus explained.  


The son of Wanda Rush and Caleb Dickerson, Ryan Dickerson wants to be "a lawyer, then a judge." 


"It''s preparation, because we listen to lectures everyday about leadership and learn about note-taking that''s going to prepare us for college and we learn about the college environment," he said of the institute research program. 


"Getting up every morning, then going to karate," is the biggest challenge, he noted. 


"We don''t really get a break until we get back to the dorm at about 10 p.m.," he explained. "But it''s worth it, because I wouldn''t really be doing anything at home right now, except sitting around, playing video games. At least I''m keeping my mind busy (now), so it won''t be rusty when I go back to school (at Caledonia Middle School)." 


"It has a lot of learning," Ramses Sandifer, 13, of Okolona, said of the program. "It teaches more than math and science. It teaches skills like how to live in an environment without your parents picking you up and it teaches responsibility and how to live with other people you may not have met, in your lifetime. (The program organizers) are mostly trying to promote children and challenge us to try harder at the schools we attend." 


"I enjoy the fact it''s a fun camp, but we also learn to have an experience with a college position in a dorm and I''m getting to get away from my parents," Sandifer, the son of Roy and Shannon Sandifer, added, noting he wants to study at Ohio State University, practice law and then be "a professor when I retire from being a lawyer."  


"I enjoy helping people and reading and that''s what best suits me," he said of his career goals. "I like literature and other reading and to investigate things that need to be solved." 


The students are "bright kids, very smart," said Ra''mon Forbes, an Armstrong Middle School teacher in Starkville, who also taught during the boys'' institute. "They excel academically and show leadership, as well. They''re a good bunch and they have very high career goals." 


"They are a very bright group," agreed Dr. John Robinson, the president of 100 Black Men of the Golden Triangle. "They''re highly motivated. We are expecting great things out of this group." 


The purpose of the institute is to "encourage and promote the interest" of students in the science, engineering, and computer science fields. 


"We felt minority representation in these fields was lacking, so if we could place them in roles in science with math instruction, maybe they would consider (careers) to promote science," Robinson said of the beginning of the institute program, which was created in 1998. 


"It''s wonderful college preparation," said Debbie Swartz of MSMS. "This is accelerated science. These students were selected based on their academic record and teacher and counselor recommendations. It''s high in the academic end; it''s not just playing."




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