April 16, 2014

Partnership between UC Merced, schools lauded

UC Merced student volunteers recognized for work at elementary, middle schools

The partnership between UC Merced students and their younger counterparts in the Merced City School District was extolled at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

University students were recognized for volunteering thousands of hours locally. Representatives from eight student groups at UC Merced received certificates and encouragement at the Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran hopes the two entities will have even stronger partnerships in coming years. “Our children love having them on campus,” Duran said.

Groups recognized included the UC Astronomy Club, Energy Service Corps, Science Alliance, Omega Leo Club, Lambda Theta Nu, Society of Women Engineers, Mecha and Merced County Project 10%.

Annie Dossetti, assistant superintendent for educational services, said the UC students are great role models.

“We are looking forward to continuing partnerships in the years to come,” Dossetti said. “The district continues to benefit from our academic partnership with UC Merced.”

Seventh- and eighth-graders can visualize themselves attending a four-year college after being with the UC students, board member Darrell Cherf said.

Board member Susan Walsh agreed with shat assessment and called the involvement of university students with youngsters in eleementary schools heartwarming.

Board member Adam Cox pushed for the UC student recognition and said the board appreciates up-and-coming UC students giving their time to district students.

As the goal is to ensure students in graduate through high school and tthen continue their education at college, board member Gene Stamm said, the partnership is wonderful.

Dossetti said the Astronomy Club has worked at Fremont, Reyes and Stowell schools. Omega Leo students worked with Chenoweth School students, and Energy Club and Lambda Theta Nu members visited Burbank School. The Society of Women Engineers held a weekend conference that included middle school girls.

Sona Garsevanyan is the president of the UC Merced Science Alliance, a group formed three years ago. The group has worked with 30 to 40 fifth-graders at Joe Stefani School. They put on a weekly experiment or demonstration illustrating a scientific topic relevant to pupils’ curriculum.

The group supplies all the materials for each experiment-demonstration, Garsevanyan said. Pupils are asked to write about each experiment, which helps the groups interact.

“These students are so intuitive that they understand the reasoning behind the experiments after each session,” Garsevanyan said. “It’s amazing how much they want to learn besides doing the fun experiments.”

Eight to 15 freshmen through seniors joined the Science Alliance and have been working with the elementary school children since the beginning of the year. Garsevanyan thanked Stefani Principal Catherine Puckett, UC advisers Michael Dawson and Carrie Menke, graduate student mentor Lauren Schiebelhut and Vernette Doty, associate director of the UC Office of Student Life and Civic Leadership, for their help.

Sunandini Prabhakar said Science Alliance’s main goal is to introduce the children at Joe Stefani to scientific concepts by conducting experiments each week. “The students have shown a keen interest in our lessons since the beginning, have enjoyed conducting the experiments and have shown great improvements in school,” she said.

Prabhakar said it is amazing to see children taking the time to learn about science outside of the academic setting and enjoy doing it.

“We have been lucky to have such a wonderful group of students these past years, and the experience that we gain as volunteers has been irreplaceable. The program has not only allowed many of our members to give back to our community, but it has also given us a chance to take on many leadership roles as educators and students,” Prabhakar said.

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