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GU Program Takes High School Students to Latin America

August 26, 2011 – Twenty-three high school sophomores from some of the Washington, D.C. area’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods traveled to Latin America earlier this month to study environmental science through Georgetown’s Meyers Institute for College Preparation (MICP) summer program.

Students used lab manuals to guide them as they studied reef ecology, biodiversity and marine science during their Aug. 7-14 trip to Belize and Guatemala.

“The study abroad experience is intentionally placed in our sequence of programs after the first year of high school,” said Charlene Brown-McKenzie, MICP executive director. “It’s at this time our students face the largest challenges of school failure, dropping out of high school and academic and career despair.”

Exciting Interest

“We use the study abroad to link our students to a global experience set to excite their interest in looking at their African ancestry across Latin America and examining social and political factors on a much larger scale,” she explained.

The trip to Latin America is a part of a broader year-round program for 7th-12th grade students operated by MICP, including a Saturday Academy, the Summer Institute and the First Year of College program.

This summer, science, math and Spanish instructors from the program conducted lessons each day after students participated cave tubing, zip-lining, sea kayaking and snorkeling the reef along the Belizean coast.

Wonderful Experience

The high school students also visited The Belize Zoo to examine animal life specific to the tropical region and spent time at the Smithsonian Research Station on the Carrie Bow Cay Island to examine coral.

Parent Darian Jackson, who helped chaperone the Meyers students, said the trip was a wonderful experience for her and her daughter, Arren Cauley, who has started 10th grade at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast D.C.

“I believe Arren is prepared for the school year, and [she] is excited about sharing her study-abroad experience [with her peers],” Jackson said.

The group also traveled to Guatemala to visit the ancient Mayan Ruins in Tikal.

An Adventure

The trip was the first time abroad for most of the students, making the act of obtaining a passport an adventure of its own for the students and their parents.

“I feel like it was a good opportunity for her to bring back what she learned,” Shanetta Richardson said of her daughter, JerShawn Fitzgerald, who attends Charles Herbert Flowers Senior High School in Springdale, Md. “JerShawn was the first person in our family to get a passport, to fly on a plane and to travel to another country to learn about other cultures.”

This is the fifth group of students MICP has taken abroad.

“The interdisciplinary curriculum encourages students to apply learned knowledge to a laboratory setting so they can think like scientists,” says Brown-McKenzie. “This presents opportunities for focused study in the sciences that students do not have at their own under-resourced and understaffed schools.”

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