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VT STARS program to help motivate high school students kicks off


   

STARS of the future STARS of the future


BLACKSBURG, Va., June 21, 2006 – The Virginia Tech Summer Training Academy for Rising Students (VT STARS) summer residency program kicks off Thursday, June 22 with a catered cookout for the students and parents, followed by a VIP seating at a presentation of Love Letters at the Studio Theatre in Squires.

Prior to the residency, students and parents attended a mandatory pre-campus orientation on Saturday, June 17 at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. Students received training on Apple's iLife 06 suite of digital tools and parents had the opportunity to ask questions, mingle, and make connections between the VT STARS program and the Institute's role in preparing for the changing workplace and economic pressures of globalization.

“I am really excited about this summer. We have tremendous support across the campus and from the participating high schools to provide the students with both a good time and a real learning challenge, as they engage in doing science,” said Edward McPherson, director of VT STARS. “The STARS program is an important step for the University and the Commonwealth toward increasing the interest and understanding of science and technology for high school students, who have not yet realized their potential for academic success."

This summer's academic enrichment will seek to engage the participants in using their creativity and imagination to explore the many challenges of infectious diseases, epidemics, materials, and environmental issues. This exploration is the thematic focus for the summer's morning science modules, afternoon math instruction, and evening project development activity.

This thematic project approach is made possible by the collaboration of Materials Science Engineering, Fralin Biotechnology Center, the Math Emporium, the Graduate School Citizen-Scholar Engagement initiative, VT PREP, Geosciences Outreach, the Department of Geography, support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Verizon Foundation, and funding from a congressionally direct grant from the US Department of Education.

VT STARS strives to be a regional model for rural and urban high schools to motivate and increase the number of female, minority, and underrepresented students seeking enrollment in post secondary degree programs and jobs in scientific, technical-related career paths.

The program provides an effective framework to strengthen academic performance of rising high school students from low-income, culturally disadvantaged, or impoverished families. Each participant will receive nearly 200 annual contact hours during a summer residency, and throughout the school year via web-based and after-school contact, in addition to periodic group activities on weekends. The supplemental activities may include non-VT STARS students, from each participating high school.

VT STARS collaborates with local public high schools to provide year-round, hands-on activities and organized experiences focused on microcomputer technology, scientific literacy, and college preparedness. Program activities and events are designed to provide the conceptual competency and cognitive familiarity necessary to narrow the gap between racial and ethnic groups in high school mathematics and science performance. The program also increases the motivation, persistence, and proficiency of disadvantaged youth and females in taking demanding math and science high school college preparatory courses.

Teacher training and parental involvement are included in the program’s structure along with peer and sibling interactions to stimulate transformation of both the students’ home and school learning environment. An advisory team in each high school determines participant selection, based on explicit program criteria.

The VT STARS program’s main objectives are to: Strengthen the academic and technical skills of its participants; Improve their motivation and ability to attain a college degree; and increase their awareness of entry-level qualifications for knowledge workers. A combination of formative and summative evaluation methods and procedures, including pre-post diagnostic testing, will be deployed and reported in various formats.