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Summer Science Camp

A group of 60 middle school students just completed the first week of summer science camp at the University of Houston. The students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and all show an aptitude for math and science. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson has more. Dr. Bernard Harris is a former NASA astronaut and the first African-American […]

A group of 60 middle school students just completed the first week of summer science camp at the University of Houston. The students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and all show an aptitude for math and science. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson has more.

Dr. Bernard Harris is a former NASA astronaut and the first African-American to walk in space. He’s the founder of the Harris Foundation which promotes the sciences among middle and high school students.

“I started out my life in a poor area here in Houston. And if it wasn’t for my educated mom who knew that — to get me out of that environment and to take me to an environment where I could find out, number one, who I was and, number two, have the opportunity to explore my dreams — I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you as a doctor, as a ex-astronaut and now in business as an entrepeneur.”

The Harris Foundation, along with NASA and the ExxonMobil Foundation, sponsor a two week science camp every summer. The middle school students stay in the dorms at the University of Houston and attend biology, math, physics and technology classes. More than 1,000 students from across the Houston area applied for the 60 spots. Blessing Osakue is 13 and will start 8th grade at Missouri City Middle School. She says she loves technology, but wanted to learn more about the physical sciences.

“I’m good at math, but I need to improve on my science. So, go for it and I applied and I got accepted and I was really happy. And so I got all packed and we got out the door and we got here and it’s really nice because we’re staying on campus so I get to see college life and how it works out.”

A federally funded study shows the U.S. will have a shortage of more than 500,000 engineers, scientists and technically trained employees five years from now. ExxonMobil Foundation President Gerald McElvy says these kids are young, but it’s time to get them thinking about college and careers in math and science.

“If you can go through high school on the math track and take calculus and go through the science track and take chemistry and biology, having completed that course of study we find that more than 90 percent of the kids then go on to get a university education.”

This group of students was chosen as having the most potential to pursue careers in math and science. To attend the camp, they had to be members of a traditionally under-represented population, demonstrate a high commitment and interest in the subjects and maintain at least a “B” average.

“Information, just learning, that’s what keeps me going. I mean, I could sit in front of the TV and if there’s nothing that benefits me I feel like my brain rots. I need to learn, I need to take something in each day to keep me going.”

Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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