Kate Mills is one of only 11 participants selected to attend the JASON Argonaut Marine Research Experience in the Bahamas.
By Kathleen Ganster
Katherine “Kate” Mills embraces the fact that she is considered a “science nerd.” That‘s why she was one of only 11 participants selected to attend the JASON Argonaut Marine Research Experience in the Bahamas.
“I am definitely a science nerd and some kids call me ‘teacher’s pet,’ but I love science and I loved helping Ms. Hurst,” Kate said, referring to Michele Hurst, her sixth-grade science teacher at Hampton Middle School. Kate has just completed her freshman year at Hampton High School.
The JASON Argonaut Marine Research Experience is a program for students and educators from around the world who are selected to participate in a weeklong experience at the Cape Eleuthera Institute on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. From July 22-28, Kate and the other participants will stay at the sustainable campus of the institute to take part in a marine biology hands-on research project with visiting scientists.
“We don’t know exactly what we will be doing, but it might be something like studying the invasive lionfish species, the sustainability of the coral reefs or a similar project,” she said.
It wasn’t an easy process for Kate to become one of the elite group selected for the opportunity. It began when she was in Ms. Hurst’s sixth-grade class, where Ms. Hurst was incorporating the JASON curriculum into her science program.
“It is a multi-media curriculum and when we were piloting the program, Kate was in sixth grade. Since she loved science so much, she would go through one of the projects for me and give me an idea of how long it would take. She would actually come down during her free period to help me out,” Ms. Hurst said.
Kate continued working with Ms. Hurst through middle school. When the teacher learned about the JASON experience for students, she passed the information on to Kate.
“But I was too young at the time. You had to be at least 14,” Kate said. As soon as she was eligible, she applied and made it to the final round but wasn’t selected.
“I was so disappointed, but I decided right away that I was going to be ready and apply next year. It just made me more determined,” she said.
The application process included two essays, a five-minute video, letters of reference and an application form. Kate said that she had to write about what field of science she was interested in and an obstacle that she had overcome in her young life. She selected the field of geology and wrote about her struggle with anxiety.
“I had anxiety when I was younger and went to a therapist. I decided I didn’t want the anxiety to control my life, that I wanted to control it,” she said.
She decided to make her video “memorable” for the selection committee.
“I dressed up in this ridiculous costume as the ‘Science Fairy’ with pink hair and huge goggles. I knew I had to make it better than last year’s and I wanted to have fun,” she said.
She also began volunteering at the Carnegie Science Center to build up her resume and obtained her passport in anticipation of being selected.
When she was selected, the accomplishment thrilled her former teacher and her parents.
“I called her mom when I got the email and I said, ‘Does this say what I think it says?’” Ms. Hurst said.
“Kate is not only a great student, but she is also a great all-around type of person. She will do really well in this program,” Ms. Hurst said.
The “Science Fairy” may also get to make an appearance because the participating students will be making videos of what they have learned at the institute.
“Who knows? Maybe Kate will be featured in the upcoming curriculum,” Ms. Hurst said.
Carole Mills, Kate’s mother, said her daughter has matured just by going through the application process.
“As a mother, it was difficult to see last year when she wasn’t selected while she wanted it so badly. But I have seen so much growth in her this past year. She became much more determined and persistent,” she said.
Ms. Mills said she believes Kate can serve as a role model for other students who face anxiety.
“It is good for others to see how she overcame her anxiety. She worked so hard to control it so that she can achieve what she wants to achieve,” she said.
As Kate gets ready to go on her summer adventure, she is looking forward to the experiments, the travel and meeting other “science nerds.”
“We had a conference call with all the participants, but I can’t wait to meet them in person,” she said.
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