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Yale summer scholars programs draws students to New Haven for science

NEW HAVEN >> There’s nothing like taking science classes at Yale University — and living for two weeks on campus — to give high school students a taste of college life.

And the 91 students in the two-week Yale Pathways to Science Summer Scholars Program are proving more than up to the challenge.

“On the first day they went through the first two days of what we planned,” Konrad Kaczmarek, a professor in Yale’s Music Department, said as high school students recently sawed thin boards to exact specifications.

Their end product was a xylophone.

“From my point of view, it’s interesting when students start to get a better idea of how these things they use actually work,” Kaczmarek said.

“It’s going to really help me out in college … and help me choose careers for the future,” said Rory Garhart of Seymour, a junior at Hill Regional Career High School.

“When I first came here I considered a career as a doctor,” he said, but now he’s looking at engineering or nursing because of the courses he’s taken in his two years as a Summer Scholar.

“So many possibilities have come out for me in this program,” he said.

The courses include neurobiology, sensory physiology and introduction to animal behavior.

“I always liked science ever since I was little,” said Aaliyah Shabazz of Hamden, a senior at Metropolitan Business Academy who is thinking of becoming a veterinarian. “This is my first year coming here and so far I’ve learned about coding and I’ve learned about different [musical] frequencies.”

The Summer Scholars Program brings high school students from New Haven, West Haven and Amity Regional schools — where Yale’s campuses are located — to the New Haven campus. Most are residential students who learn about the more recreational aspects of student life as well, such as gymnastics at 7 a.m. and pool in the evening. They also took in the movie “Jurassic World.”

“It gives a really comprehensive college experience in that we have really high expectations of students,” said Alyssa Siefert of Naugatuck, a teaching assistant who graduated with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering in May. “They have to learn to meet new people and get to know them and work together. They’re really motivated and very bright.”

Siefert said the instructors in the program, Yale professors and graduate students, act as mentors for the students, “relatable figures, to see what life in science or engineering might be like.”

Among the classes is one on writing a college admissions essay. Laurent Briones of New Haven, a senior at Career, said that class is “stressful because we’ve got to do a lot of drafts” — 15 in all.

But he said of the various classes he’s taken in his three years, “Once you get it down it’s real fun.”

He’s thinking of becoming an automotive engineer and really appreciated a materials science class he took.

Larry Wilen, a design mentor at Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design on Prospect Street, as well as a senior research scientist, said the program “may give them a new direction in the way they see their career … The essence of this program is to give a window into new opportunities.”

Nina Filippone of Ansonia, a senior at Engineering-Science University Magnet School, said the program “allows you to set up relationships with professors and people at Yale so you can further your education. … It makes you think of the world around you and how much work goes into the things that we see.”

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