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Environmental Factor, March 2013

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Outreach program begins second year at local school

By Eddy Ball

Citizen School group

This year’s Citizen Schools group includes, left to right, Lao, O'Donnell, Wiggins, Buckley, Andres, Reid, Campos, Whirledge, Bernhardt, Liu, Davis, Winuthayanon, and Adgent. Not shown: Wolfgang, Pantazis, de Marchena, and Janoshazi. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The NIEHS Citizen Schools project kicked off its second year of service Feb. 4 with an orientation for students at Lowes Grove Middle School in Durham, N.C.

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Staffed by 15 volunteers from NIEHS, this year’s program marshals the talents of postdocs and staffers for a 10-week series of hands-on science activities related to respiratory health, which will culminate May 2 with what the program calls the “WOW! Event.” On that final night of the program, parents, friends, and community members join students for an evening of celebration, as program participants share what they have learned and volunteers see the fruits of their labor.

Sponsored by the NIEHS Office of Science Education and Diversity (OSED), headed by Ericka Reid, Ph.D., the program is part of a nationwide program that has proven its worth, by boosting participants’ success rates. According to Citizen Schools follow-up since 2002, young people who were part of the program attend classes more often, outperform their peers in six measures of student success, are 20 percent more likely to graduate from high school, attend classes more often, outperform their peers in six measures of student success, and are 80 percent more likely to attend college.

“I think we have another winning combination this year,” said Reid. “Everyone involved is passionate about science and about inspiring kids. We learned last year just how much impact the program had, especially for children from groups that are underrepresented in scientific careers. I look forward to another great experience this year for students, as well as for the volunteers.”

The program was so successful in its initial year that 2012 volunteers were honored during the NIEHS Annual Awards Ceremony Feb. 13 (see story). Citizen Schools organizers encouraged NIEHS to make an encore presentation of its lung health series this year, and NIEHS turned to Huei-Chen Lao, who is on detail to OSED as the K-12 Science Education and Outreach Coordinator, for organization and leadership of the project.

Contributing to this year’s effort are a lucky 13 trainees from research groups across the Institute:

Margaret Adgent, Ph.D.
Sara Andres, Ph.D.
Miranda Bernhardt, Ph.D.
Lindsay Buckley, Ph.D.
Christopher Campos, Ph.D.
Felicity Davis, Ph.D.
Jacqueline de Marchena, Ph.D.

Yanshun Liu, Ph.D.
Caroline Pantazis
Wipawee (Joy) Winuthayanon, Ph.D.
Shannon Whirledge, Ph.D.
Kimberly Wiggins, Ph.D.
Taylor Wolfgang

They are joined by Laboratory of Signal Transduction biologist Agnes Janoshazi, Ph.D., and Office of Research Facilities electrician Sarah O’Donnell, who is lending her expertise to the creation of instructional props.

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