A summer program that has offered N.C. high school students an opportunity to engage in the sciences since 1985 is shrinking due to budget cuts.
Summer Ventures in Science and Mathematics is a state-funded program that provides four weeks of science and math instruction to rising juniors and seniors. The students are housed at university campuses across the state and are able to work with professors on research projects, all at no cost.
But state funding cuts that have been affecting several academic programs, such as Governor’s School, are taking their toll on Summer Ventures as well.UNC
“Each year schools get a sum of money for programming,” said Melissa Thibault, director of Summer Ventures. “What they choose to do with it is up to them.”
In 1983, the program was given about $1 million, but that has been cut over the years, she said.
Summer Ventures hosted close to 500 students at its peak, but Thibault predicted the number would be closer to 250 next summer.
“You would think in good conscience no one would cut this program,” she said. “But people are having to make some really tough decisions.”
The four schools still offering the program, which include N.C. Central University, will meet in January to determine how many students they can afford to host for the summer 2012 program.
John Myers, director of Summer Ventures at NCCU, said the program is important to the school despite having fewer resources each year.
“I hope the legislature recognizes how important STEM programs are,” Myers said.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — four fields that the U.S. Department of Education have described as a priority for students nationwide.
Rep. Norman Sanderson, R-Craven, said he understood the significance of the program.
He said donations from the private sector were what recently enabled Governor’s School to keep one of its two campuses in operation next summer.
But Akhil Jariwala, a sophomore who attended Summer Ventures at East Carolina University in 2008 —a school that still continues to host Summer Ventures — said part of the prestige of the program is that it is completely state-funded.
“It was a really formative experience, and I met people who changed my life.”
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