Its Graduation time at STEP again…

Its graduation time again. And its more than half a year since I’ve blogged. Tomorrow we celebrate our newest batch of STEP graduates. We have three capstone projects. I invite you to read the thoughts of our students in the Capstone Essays. Click the links to open the pdf document. Of course, you must have Adobe Reader…available as a free download..etc.etc. etc…(..if you don’t know, ask your child.)
Chelsea the Dancing future Dr.


The first ever S.T.E.P. Parent Conference – Its On! Its this coming Saturday, November 22, 2008. I’m not expecting a sell-out crowd, and that’s a shame! The aim of the conference is to orient parents of students who are dreaming big, to the realities of engaging in a “World Class Education”- the new education policy direction for the incoming Obama administration. What does the term mean? How will it change the attitude of school administrators and instructors? How will it change the focus of instruction? How will it benefit the businesses in our communities and will our children be equipped and ready to compete for the new jobs? As parents, what do we need to do to ensure our children are not being “left behind” -and what exactly does the term “left behind” mean in this context? These are a few of the conversations we must have in our Parent Association gatherings, and this is a conference to launch these conversations. But again, we are not quite there yet, so I’m not expecting a sell-out audience – I hope I will be pleasantly surprised.

New Life in the modules (and to the blog.)

At the Dare to be a Doctor Conference7th and 8th graders -Chemistry project
Our 9 STEP Students were part of the 500+ audience that spent a day with area doctors at the County Center -and heard the inspiring messages from The Three Doctors (of Newark who as young men in their senior of high school made a pact to become physicians- and did!)
Our Med students were also on hand to assist -and were visible as role-models. Here, pictured at left, they pose with some of the students they work with on Saturdays.
The 7th and 8th graders have been asking for more science learning -yes, I said asking for MORE- so our amazing med student instructors have been coming up with all manner of “real” science lessons in the modules. They’ve done forensic explorations (with weird observations of reactions to combinations such as coca-cola and mentos), and, recently they did gel-staining of bacteria samples. Look out on the Wiki for the students’ write-ups of what they learned.


Seniors say, “Thank you” to Parents of STEP

The graduating seniors of the Class of 2008 would like to thank the parents of STEP at NYMC for the beautiful event last Saturday in celebration of their accomplishments. Thank You Parents.

Look out soon for their capstone essays which will be uploaded for reading in the next few days. Meanwhile, the seniors are, from back row left to right, Oladimeji Okoduwa, going to Ithaca College to prepare for a career in Physiotherapy; and Victoria Camara, heading to the University of Chicago’s pre-med program; in the front row, Caridad Schwarz, going to Parson’s School of Design to pursue Graphic Design, Toni Green, going to join her sister at Syracuse University, in hope of pursuing a career in Marine Biology, and Olayemi Akinfemiwa who has decided on Northeastern University to study Biology in the hope of pursuing a career in medicine.

The Capstone Essays are being loaded. Please click on the underlined links below. These are PDF documents, so Adobe Reader (free from the Adobe website) needs to be on your computer to be able to read them.


mark2.jpgJust a few weeks ago, Mark Araujo was at the annual STEP conference in Albany, New York, setting up his research poster while sizing up the teenage competition in the large room at the Marriott hotel. Mark has been working alongside scientists and technicians in a private pharma lab in our area, and was given his own small slice of a larger project which promises to have an impact on the way pharmaceuticals may be specifically targeted to help the body’s natural processes in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

This week, 17 yr-old Mark and his family, lost their home and everything they owned in a tragic fire which engulfed their apartment building. See the story here.Mark and Jonathan and their parents have been a part of the STEP family for the last four years, and they need our help and the help of all people of good will who read this blog. Mark’s family needs immediate financial help to find a place to live and to purchase furnishings, supplies, school supplies, and other essentials for living. We do not yet have a place to store items, so please begin to collect money for relocation for the family and when I get a list of needed items from Mark, I will post it.

Mark celebrated a victory at that hotel just a few weeks ago, and we were all so proud when he was awarded 2nd place in his category and lifted up that beautiful trophy. Below, Toni is smitten with Mark’s trophy, while Mark is calm and humble. Now Mark and his family are in another hotel -this time their room is provided courtesy of the Red Cross. They do not know where they will be going next, nor how they will move on. We need to rally around our family members and help to bring back some normalcy to their lives. Mark is an extremely bright and promising young man, who has already begun to make a difference on this planet. Let us help! Please!trophy4cropd.jpg

Let’s be Ants

The Beatles, in their song “Revolution,” said: “we all want to change the world.” While I’m sure that’s true for most of us, what can any one person, acting alone, do to change the world? My response is to say that we must learn to think like ants. One ant, acting alone, can do little to change anything. However, a colony of ants, instinctively working together, can alter the landscape.
Today, the internet has made it possible for us to do what ants have always done, namely, to make meaningful change happen in our world. The internet makes it possible for us to talk to people throughout the world. We can learn what people in distant countries are thinking and doing. However, by itself, the internet is not enough to make change possible. We also need a platform that attracts like minded people to come together to collectively work for the betterment of our world. Most of us call those platforms web sites.
But even web sites are not enough. While some say that money is the root of all evil, it is also the root of bringing about meaningful change in our world. Sure, none of us has enough money to bring about such meaningful change. What could my $25 or $50 do to change the world? That is where the notion of microfinance comes into play. “Microfinance” is just a fancy way of saying that if millions of people throughout the world contributed small amounts of money into a common fund, big changes could happen. Each of us can make a big difference if we started thinking more like ants. Microfinance would not be possible were it not for internet web sites. I’m going to give you two examples of what microfinance can do to help change the world.
Most immediately, we have the spectacle of the fund raising tactics of the Barack Obama campaign. Over one million people have made donations to his campaign, almost all through the internet. Most of those donations have been very small, many in the range of $25, $50 or $100. Yet, when you multiply those amounts by over one million people, you can understand why the Obama campaign is one of the best financed campaigns in the history of our country. Barack Obama has based his campaign on principles of microfinance. However, as I have said, that would not have been possible were it not for the internet and the platform upon which Obama supporters can get together, i.e. his campaign web site.
My second example involves an organization called Kiva. How many of you have heard of Kiva? Kiva is an example of microfinance in its most classical form. What Kiva does is, through the help of local development agencies throughout the world, identify small businesses that need to borrow a small amount of money in order to create a new business or to expand one that already exists. Included are fishermen needing new nets, bakers needing new ovens, or clothing retailers needing to finance an expanded stock of merchandise. If successful, those small businesses will help to improve the economies of their countries by increasing cash flow and by creating new jobs. The money is not given to these small businesses as a gift; it is a loan that must be repaid. The loan is administered by the local development agency. When the loan is repaid, the lenders get their money back. While the local development agency retains the interest as a fee for servicing the loan, once the loan is repaid, it will either be returned to the lenders or become available for making new loans to new businesses. Over time, lenders who span the globe, can develop a portfolio of investments in small businesses in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, or Latin or South America.
I urge you to visit the Kiva website, by clicking here. I promise that your visit will be very exciting. A visit is an opportunity for you and your children to increase your understanding of people throughout the world. After one visit you will understand what microfinance is all about better than anything I have said in this message. You will begin to understand that you really can help to change the world. You will better understand why the world will be better off if we can begin to think like ants.

Ken Schwarz