Samantha Gibson, a senior at Trinity Christian School in Forest Hills, is among a growing number of students, especially girls, who plan to major in the sciences in college.
So she appreciates the newly remodeled science lab at Trinity Christian, a Presbyterian school that is funded through tuition.
Thanks to several private donors, Trinity Christian this year spent $60,000 to update its chemistry lab and will spend another $40,000 to $45,000 to renovate the biology lab this summer.
Samantha, 18, of Forest Hills, plans to major in exercise science at the University of Central Arkansas, where she has received a full-tuition track scholarship. After she earns her degree, she would like to be a personal trainer for young adults in CrossFit, which emphasizes Olympic lifting and strengthening, or a physical education teacher.
"I think more people are concerned with their health today, so there are more health-related majors and jobs," she said.
She said she sees more girls interested in the sciences these days.
"Instead of majoring in English, more girls are going into hands-on fields, such as the medical sciences," she said.
Health professions and clinical sciences make up the second most popular college major for women after business, which is also the top major for men, according to an article this month on Forbes.com. Eighth on the top 10 list for women is the field of biological and biomedical sciences, ahead of English language and literature at No. 9, the article said.
Dale McLane, headmaster at Trinity, agrees that more female students at the school have gone into the sciences in recent years.
One girl is attending Spelman College in Atlanta, and a lot of girls are studying the sciences at Pitt or Grove City, he said, noting that Trinity added advanced biology to its curriculum two years ago.
"I double as the guidance counselor and I just met with the junior class, and some want to major in physiology, exercise science, occupational therapy, and four students are interested in medical school," he said.
The school takes part in science competitions, he said, with 15 students participating in the Science Olympiad last week at California University of Pennsylvania. The school also sends students to job shadow in labs, he said.
Trinity has about 300 students in grades K-12 taught by 19 full-time and six part-time teachers. It draws students from throughout the eastern suburbs and as far away as Fox Chapel to the north and Norwin and Trafford to the south. It boasts that 95 percent of its students go on to four-year colleges.
In 1989, the school moved into the former Forest Hills Middle School and is on a 10-acre campus off Route 30 and Braddock Road.
"Our chemistry lab hadn't been updated since the late 1960s," Mr. McLane said. "It was functional but crowded with 32 desks attached to the floor. Now we have six large, triangular-shaped stations with stools and work stations.
"Each station has seating for four desks, and six students can be standing and watching comfortably. It is also our physics lab.
"We have new cabinets, a new teacher station at the front and a second prep station at the back. We put in new windows, a new floor and new paint. And we updated the electrical. Before, we had to have the gas turned off most of the time because the piping was not up to par, and we had filled in some of the sinks with concrete. Now each station has water and gas, so students can do their experiments at their station."
Chemistry teacher Eric Matta said the updates to the lab "were a real blessing. The old lab was functional but dated. Parents used to come in during open house and say, 'I remember that from when I was a student here.'
"Students now can do experiments and cleanup right at their stations. Before we had to do all the cleanup at the front of the room. So the setup and cleanup time really has been reduced during a 40-minute class," he said.
The school's plans to renovate the biology lab will include a new prep area plus new furniture, cabinets, windows and free-standing tables with epoxy tops for dissection.
Trinity has a computer lab, 700-seat auditorium, library and rooms for art, band and choir plus a full gymnasium. It is a Class A school in the WPIAL and offers soccer, volleyball, basketball and track.
Ms. Gibson is the first female athlete from Trinity Christian to sign with a Division I athletic program. She holds seven school records in track and is a top runner in the state in the 400-meter dash.
The Presbyterian school maintains a close relationship with leaders from churches of different denominations. Last week, it held an annual pastors' breakfast for 70 local churches, including Catholic and Baptist officials.
Mr. McLane said the donors for the science lab renovations were parents and alumni, but all preferred to remain anonymous.
"Two years ago, a donor came to me and wanted to see the money used for educational improvements, and I suggested the chemistry lab updates," he said.
After the donors saw the improvements to the chemistry lab, many also made donations to the biology lab renovations.
"We are thankful to every one of our donors, and we know that every gift is a gift from the Lord," Mr. McLane said.
Debra Duncan, freelance writer: email@example.com.