Newark Public Schools’ (NPS) Malcolm X Shabazz High School’s Biogeochemistry team traveled from Newark to San Francisco last week to present their primary field research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Conference, the largest earth and space science meeting in the world. Students raised $6,000 through a GoFundMe fundraising campaign which enabled eight students and three chaperones to attend the global conference.
The students presented a poster of field studies by the Malcolm X Shabazz Biogeochemistry Team, led by student Kim Boerrigter, which was accepted into the Bright STaRS program at the AGU Fall Conference. Over the past four years, the Malcolm X Shabazz Biogeochemistry Team has been working in close collaboration with Dr. Andrew D. Steen, Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, performing cutting-edge enzyme research. Dr. Steen is publishing a manuscript in a science journal largely based on data compiled by the Newark students. This collaboration is particularly noteworthy because of the novel data collection and research that students are conducting. According to Dr. Steen, measurements like the ones Newark students were collecting had never been made before in the environment they are working in.
“After four years of rigorous research, the Malcolm X Shabazz Biogeochemistry Team is seeing all of their hard work and determination pay off.” said Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf. “I am so proud of the team for representing Newark at the American Geophysical Union Fall Conference, and I am not surprised to see that the team had such an outpouring of support from the community. These students have a bright future ahead of them and are showing all of their friends and peers how exciting the science, technology, engineering and math fields can be.”
After her poster to the Bright STaRS program was approved, Kim Boerrigter began to work with her Malcolm X Shabazz High School math teacher Patrick Murray to identify funding for the trip. Kim and Mr. Murray started a GoFundMe page and eventually received nearly 100 donations from peers, family members and even Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf. The funds helped cover hotel rooms, airfare, transportation, meals and other expenses for the students.
Malcolm X Shabazz High School is a comprehensive high school in Newark’s South Ward. The school has approximately 600 students, about 90 percent of whom qualify for Free or Reduced Price Lunch. Team member Kim wrote on the GoFundMe page, “This is huge for us. We are a Title I school with very limited resources. As far as any of us knows, no Newark Public School has ever done anything even close to something like this. We really don’t have STEM-oriented role models outside of a few teachers who have gone above and beyond to give us an opportunity to shine.”
In addition to attending and participating in the conference, students also had the opportunity to participate in several STEM-related visits with Bay Area organizations and companies. They started with a visit to the microbiology labs at Stanford University followed by a tour of the Facebook Campus, as well as the Hearsay Social offices where they got to see computer engineers and programmers in action.
“It was a totally awesome experience for everyone,” added Mr. Murray. “IT Engineers shared their personal experiences with students and offered their support. Students presented and defended their science to some of the leading professionals in the field at the AGU conference, and most importantly, they had the opportunity to participate in experiences throughout the week that allowed them to visualize themselves in these types of roles.”
For almost 50 years, the AGU Fall Conference has served as a platform for scientists to present cutting-edge research. The 2016 AGU Fall Conference was held at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco and 24,000 people attended. This year’s AGU conference keynote speaker was California Governor Jerry Brown, Jr.