For Albright College students Jennifer Vasquez ’22 and Cary Shurtz ’23, the Science Research Institute’s after-school program turned out to be a fulfilling experience in which they learned as much as they taught.
The Science Research Institute, based on Albright College’s Reading, Pa campus, seeks to foster the scientific interests of local grade 5-12 students and provide them with top-notch resources and facilities to conduct innovative research. Although the institute began as a small program at Conrad Weiser High School before finding its home at Albright, it grew quickly – exponentially, in fact — with an enrollment increase of 817% in the five years following its launch.
Like Vasquez and Shurtz, a number of Albright College student-interns serve as mentors to the institute’s younger scholars.
Vasquez, now an Albright political science graduate, applied for the mentoring internship to expand on her sociology studies and incorporate the research methods she has learned into the program. Vasquez demonstrated extraordinary drive and leadership skills throughout her college career, serving as president of the Hispanic Culture Club and the International Student Association, and as a member of the college’s Council for an Inclusive, Thriving and Equitable Community.
Bettering the community and ensuring that all members are represented were major factors in Vasquez’s drive to become a leadership figure in Albright’s community. “I’m passionate about what each organization stands for,” said Vasquez, “because at the end of the day, everything comes down to diversity and equity and inclusivity, and that’s always something that I’ve strived for, helping minority students like myself.” Given her enthusiasm for opportunities to strengthen her community, Vasquez was eager to pursue the Science Research Institute internship, where she would be able to share her insights and encourage students to pursue their goals with a similar mindset.
Another active student on Albright’s campus, Shurtz became a mentor at the institute to hone her ability to manage large groups of young learners. An art and English co-major, Shurtz is passionate about culture and sharing it with other people, and thus far she has worked at the Freedman Gallery and has taken on a work-study position with Albright’s Art Department. A new member of the Albright dance team, Shurtz plans to follow her Albright bachelor’s degree with an Albright’s master’s degree, and eventually enter the field of teaching.
Shurtz applied to be a mentor at the advice of her professor, Brian N. Glaze, M.F.A., and she has since had the opportunity to create and direct workshops on welding and rubber mold making, expertise that she learned from her Albright art studio classes. “That is something I never knew I’d get out of my college experience, but I enjoyed it, and it feels very fulfilling to have learned these skills—and I know that I’ve learned them thoroughly enough to be able to teach them.”
Both Vasquez and Shurtz have experienced growth from mentoring at the Science Research Institute, learning how to practice what they have studied in new and unexpected ways. Mentoring at the institute has also opened their eyes to how much adults and children can learn from each other.
“While I am mentoring students, I feel like the students teach me so much,” said Vasquez.
Regarding her experience as a mentor, Shurtz expressed similar impressions of the incredible potential among the students. “Being able to hear what some of these kids think of in their projects and what they want to do, I am amazed by just how curious they are about different topics and different things.”
Both Vasquez and Shurtz expressed appreciation for the Albright Science Research Institute mentorship program opportunity.
“I liked seeing how I could incorporate my major at Albright into what I do here,” said Vasquez, who was able to draw on her educational experience during her mentorship and enrich the program through the diversity of her experience.
Likewise, Shurtz considers the internship especially valuable as it has allowed her to gain hands-on experience in a teaching environment and has prepared her for future opportunities. “I am going on a good path in life, and I am going toward a career that I’m going to enjoy.”