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Grants support academic ties
with high school students

The University has won two grants from the State Department of Education to educate students from all over Connecticut in research and cutting-edge technology.

The first grant provides $27,000 for on August program that will bring 52 students from 13 middle or high schools in the state to UConn to learn how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Each student will work in a team with students from other schools, supervised by Robert Cromley, a professor and head of the geography department, and Dan Civco, an associate professor of natural resources management and engineering. Their teachers also will spend time learning about GIS. Next school year, the students and teachers will work together to develop curricular units that incorporate GIS.

"GIS is one of the absolutely critical tools for analysis of geographic problems. It enables people to tie together a wide variety of information about why things are where they are, and where they ought to be in particular locations," said Judith W. Meyer, vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction.

Although a few schools in Connecticut already use GIS in geography, earth science and environmental science classes, the program will start at the beginner level so all students will be on the same level, she said. Students from different schools will learn from each other, hopefully overcoming some of the stereotypes associated with their school districts.

The second grant provides nearly $90,000 for the UConn Mentor Connection, a three-week summer program for high school students to take part in creative projects and research investigations with faculty, staff and graduate students as mentors. Under the grant, 42 Connecticut students will receive $1,800 scholarships to participate in the program.

"The program provides students with opportunities to be creative producers in their field of interest," said program director Jeanne Purcell. "At UConn, they are at the cutting-edge."

Mentor Connection, affiliated with the Neag Center on Talent Development, also offers students hands-on experience in research techniques such as how to use the latest electronic data retrieval systems in a university library. Students develop a collaborative relationship with their mentor and interact with other students who have common interests.

Sites for this year's program include excavating at the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, exploring the effects of nutrients on genes and studying the New England nature writing of Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau.

The two programs are part of a larger program funded by the state legislature called the Interdistrict Cooperative Grant Program, which involves 60,000 students from throughout the state in 159 projects.

"These collaboration programs between school districts are focused on improving student achievement and creating diversity," said Chuck Cassidy of the education department. "It's a wonderful opportunity for students to come to a university to learn."

Meyer said both the GIS and Mentor Connection programs will make a contribution to the state's goal of enhancing interaction among Connecticut youth across racial, ethnic, and social class boundaries.

"We're bringing young people from the state to the University for an exciting intellectual experience and therefore acquainting them with the rich opportunities at the University of Connecticut," Meyer said. "We are working with schools in the state to identify students who have talent and helping ensure they can grow to the point where they can be successful at University of UConn." RKSA

Editor's note: Work by two Mentor Connection students, Nadira Hill from Westhill High School in Stamford and Kevin Barbero of East Hartford High School, appears in this edition of the Advance.