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Under Our Wing

School may have been out for summer, but instead of getting some extra sleep, playing video games or hanging out with friends, some high school students chose to spend time on the University of Louisville.

By Lauren Williams

School may have been out for summer, but instead of getting some extra sleep, playing video games or hanging out with friends, some high school students chose to spend time on the University of Louisville campus, gaining exposure to various career fields and giving themselves a leg up on the choices they’ll make in college and beyond.

UofL hosts several summer programs for high school students, some aimed at local students and others which provide housing, allowing for students to travel from other parts of Kentucky and from other states to participate.

Project BUILD

Students in the program Project BUILD, a partnership between UofL and the Lincoln Foundation, which serves as a conduit between disadvantaged youth and educational programs, spent one morning participating in an entrepreneurship workshop led by College of Business professor Sharon Kerrick.

feature-wing_1.jpgKerrick told the students, “you’re special, you’re here working, while other people aren’t.”

Project BUILD (Business United in Leadership Development) is a four-week program designed for high school juniors and seniors. Students in the program are introduced to college-level business courses and the culture of business. Course study includes accounting, economics, finance, management and marketing. This year, 18 students attended and the program, which in its 25th year. Family income is not a consideration for admission to the program.

“This program provides a great opportunity for kids looking to go to college, because it gives them a real-world sense of what it takes to get to college,” said Karen Edwards-Hunter, a project coordinator with the Lincoln Foundation and the proctor for the Project BUILD program. “For those who are interested in business, it gives them a good foundation.”

Rising high school junior Cameron Durham, who attends Pleasure Ridge Park High School, says his geometry teacher at school let him know about the program and he’s glad he’s doing it.

“I’ve learned a lot about finances and managing money, and it’s been really educational,” he said. “I have particularly enjoyed the computer information systems classes.”

Much of the program’s success over the years is owed to the many corporate sponsors, such as UPS and PNC Bank, which have lent their support to the program, says Jay Brandi, a professor of finance in the UofL College of Business and director of Project BUILD. It has also received many accolades from local educators for the opportunities it provides to students.

“The longevity of this program proves its worth,” he said. “It has been evaluated by the Jefferson County Board of Education and came out with flying colors. The program provides an incentive for students to pursue their dreams in part because we provide numerous role models who grew up in homes just like theirs and are now successful members of their communities. Part of the strength of the program is just that—to help the students be successful and to show them how to give back as their mentors did.”


Students participating in the INSPIRE (Increasing Student Preparedness and Interest in the Requisites for Engineering) program, run by the Speed School of Engineering, got the chance to see bioengineering in action as part of a morning’s worth of demonstrations led by bioengineering faculty and students.

Bioengineering master’s degree candidate Dhru Patel demonstrated his model of the human arm, and a device he designed on which he can measure the forces exerted by biceps and triceps when they are in motion.

“We can look at a simple motion or we can simulate lifting weights, and calculate the forces,” he told the students.

The device is used as a teaching tool for students of engineering.

Other students demonstrated devices designed to help failing hearts function properly and INSPIRE students asked questions such as whether the body would reject such a device.

The three-week-long INSPIRE program attracted Male High School rising junior Tre Brown, who said that engineering is a field he’s considering pursuing.

“I thought it might be something I’d be interested in when I get out of high school, and this would be a good way to see what it’s all about,” he said.

Speed School professor Andrea Gobin was instrumental in designing the bioengineering demonstrations, and said she feels the INSPIRE program and the exposure it gives to young students can be eye-opening.

“I believe students should truly consider engineering as a career,” she said. “It is one that allows us to design, build, and tear apart. Bioengineering is even more exciting, because as a bioengineer, your work can influence many others around the world. Your name may not be on it, but you have improved or saved someone’s life.”

This summer, 22 students from 15 different schools around the metro area participated in INSPIRE. In addition to the bioengineering demonstrations, activities included a tour of Speed’s rapid proto-typing lab and “clean room,” presentations on cultural diversity and Ekstrom library’s robotic book retrieval system, and a college preparation workshop. The students were also introduced to the science of concrete mixing as part of an introduction to civil engineering, and were given a taste, as well, of the fields of chemical, industrial, electrical, computer science and mechanical engineering.

Summer Research Internship Program

At the James Graham Brown Cancer Center on UofL’s Health Sciences Center campus, 18 high school students had the opportunity to participate in lab research for eight weeks as part of the highly competitive James Graham Brown Cancer Center Summer Research Internship Program.

In its eighth year, the program receives about ten applications for every spot, but rising high school senior Catherine Shelburne didn’t let two failed application attempts deter her from trying again this year.

“I really like science and was in a junior level chemistry class as a freshman, which encouraged me to apply for this program and the third time was the charm,” she said. Shelburne, who attends Highlands Latin School, is working in the lab of researcher John Trent growing proteins that will be crystallized and extracted from E. Coli plasmids for targeted drug discovery.

“I had no idea what to expect and I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I really enjoy the lab work.”

In addition to committing twenty hours a week to working in the lab, most of which are located in the Clinical and Translational Research Building, the students attend a weekly seminar series where they hear from UofL faculty members in various disciplines, talking about their work. An early seminar featured researcher Michael Perlin, a professor of biology who talked about his work with a fungus known as corn smut, which is also a culinary delicacy in Mexico. To complement the lecture, students enjoyed empanadas from a local Mexican restaurant made with the “smut,” which is also known by the less offensive name, “huitlacoche.”

Other seminar topics included pulmonary research and the cancer-fighting qualities of certain foods.

Director Diane Konzen said the program was started with the hope of reversing the trend of fewer and fewer students showing an interest in careers in science and research.

“Eight years later, it’s fun for me to watch 15 to 20 bright, but shy high school students start the program in mid-June, and spend eight weeks finding out what it’s like to work in a real research lab, completing their own project under the guidance of Cancer Center faculty,” she said. “Then, in August, it is amazing to watch them return to school as confident budding scientists.”


For students who come from a medically underserved area of Kentucky and are interested in medical and dental careers, the residential PEPP—Professional Education Preparation Program—offers an opportunity to shadow physicians and dentists, and learn more about what a health career entails. Michael Deaton, who recently graduated from Shelby Valley High School, said the program has been “life-changing” for him.

feature-wing_2.jpgDeaton, who had hernia surgery as a young boy, is interested in pursuing a career as a surgeon. He had the opportunity to shadow UofL Department of Surgery Chair Dr. Kelly McMasters in clinic, and see what McMasters does on a daily basis.

“It’s really made me grateful,” he said of his time in the Brown Cancer Center. “To see the resources here compared to what we have in my area, and how much we lack where I come from.”

PEPP is a four-week-long program that features activities such as a cultural awareness seminar, tours of the Health Sciences Center campus, seminars on topics such as medicine overseas and the organ donation process, shadowing of doctors and other health care providers and hands-on activities in the dental and medical schools. The students also receive academic enrichment in freshmen level math, biology, and chemistry to ensure that they are prepared for the challenging pre-med curriculum of college. PEPP is open to graduating high school seniors from Kentucky interested in medicine and dentistry. It is a government-funded program in partnership with the universities that host it.

Gear Up

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federally funded program that encourages young students to stay in school, study hard, and take the right courses to go to college. It is run through the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, through partnerships with the schools and with universities like UofL. It offers some of the same opportunities as the PEPP program but to younger students—those entering their junior or senior year in high school.

PJ Clemons, 17, of Russellville, decided he wanted to become a doctor when his mother died three years ago from an assortment of medical problems.

“I want to give the world better health care than she got,” Clemons said.

Clemons and classmates took advantage of opportunities such as the chance to try their hands at suturing in a School of Dentistry lab. They also had the chance to assist in childbirth at the School of Medicine’s Simulation Lab.


The five-day-long, residential Accounting Careers Awareness Program offers students exposure to the field of accounting, what it takes to get a good job and what day-to-day life is like as an accountant. During the week, in addition to field trips, workshops and seminars, the students work to prepare business plans which are presented to parents at guests at an end-of-program banquet.

Darryl Whitfield attended ACAP as a student last summer, and returned this summer as a chaperone.

“It gives a real insight into the accounting industry,” he said, “and to business as a whole. The people doing these jobs, what they do every day. We heard from the CEO of Texas Roadhouse and we visited Papa John’s corporate offices. It’s great exposure.”

Programs like these can give students a leg up on their college studies, said Amanda Hourigan, a senior associate at the accounting firm KPMG, who was on campus to participate in a roundtable discussion with the ACAP students.

“It gets them thinking a little bit earlier about what they want to do and what they need to do to get there,” she said.

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