SGU’s Brian Neff Spearheads 2007 International Coastal Cleanup

Organisers say this year’s cleanup was especially successful in terms of the number of beaches cleaned. Beaches were targeted primarily for their access to communities and need for cleanup. Mr. Neff, of SGU’s Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, stated, “Our objective was to maximize the benefit of the cleanup to residents. We want Grenadians and tourists alike to enjoy our beautiful beaches and hope that beachgoers will help keep these attractions clean by their example and advocacy”.

Mr. Neff highlighted the value of the project: “The Coastal Cleanup isn’t just about pollution cleanup, it’s also about pollution prevention. Data is collected on how much and what type of trash is collected from beaches. This data is then used by Ocean Conservancy to track the behavior, and in some cases policies, that cause the debris. For example, in recent years discarded clear-plastic water bottles have become alarmingly abundant on our beaches in Grenada, but reusable glass bottles used for locally-bottled beverages remain relatively uncommon. This suggests that the current system of reusing glass beverage bottles on the island is an effective tool to prevent trash on our beaches here in Grenada.”

Numerous volunteers responded to the call for assistance. Participants included the current Miss Grenada World, Ms. Vivian Burkhardt, the Grenada Dive Association, boy scouts, the Archibald Avenue SDA Pathfinders, St. George’s University’s Significant Others Organisation, and the University’s Public Health Student Association; as well as residents from the communities surrounding the cleanup sites, tourists and St. George’s University faculty, staff, and students.

Event organisers noted that there is a rich network of community and non-governmental organisations focused on community service in Grenada. They hope to draw on these resources to encourage even greater community participation in future projects. Beaches partially or completely cleared of debris include St. Andrew’s Bay near the Marquis Community, Hope Beach near Bacolet Island, Grand Mal Beach, Pandy Beach (Martin’s Bay) near the Belmont Community, Grand Anse Beach, BBC Beach at Morne Rouge Bay, and a small beach on Mt Hartman Bay. The underwater sculpture park dive site was also cleared of debris.

Mr. Neff continued, “While all of the beaches we cleared were fantastic, my favorite beach was Hope Beach. The local community clearly takes pride in this beach. Unfortunately, over time trash can drift onto the beach from the sea or be deposited by careless beach visitors. It was fantastic to help this community in their ongoing effort to keep their beach clean.” He concluded, “Involvement in this year’s cleanup was terrific. We quite literally ran out of beaches to clean in the St. George’s area. That is a very good problem to have.”

Information on this year’s cleanup is available at http://www.oceanconservancy.org. To find out how to participate in future cleanup events, please contact Mr. Neff at bneff@sgu.edu, at 457-0249, or through St. George’s University, Department of Public Health.

Published October 15, 2007, The SGU Gazette

IST students teach, work for government ministry in Caribbean internship

University Park, Pa. — For five Penn State Information Sciences and Technology (IST) students, spending the summer in Grenada involved far more than gorgeous beaches, crystal-clear water and breathtaking views.

It also included teaching Java programming to secondary students, repairing desktops, networking two classrooms in secondary-school computer labs — and being a minority in a country with different customs, values and attitudes.

The students’ employer — the Grenada Ministry of Education.

“The first thing you notice — and the first thing that you let go of — is that you’re in a minority,” said Tim Knapton, a junior majoring in IST. “When people learned we weren’t tourists, they were interested in what we were doing and wanted to be sure we were enjoying ourselves.”

The 10-week internship was part of a unique partnership among IST, the Penn State College of Education, St. George’s University in Grenada and that island country’s education ministry. The hope is to make this internship program an annual opportunity for IST students, said Madhavi Kari, IST career solutions team lead and placement coordinator.

“This is a win-win partnership — our students have a real-world cultural experience and learn about global IT challenges while sharing their expertise and providing value to a government organization,” Kari said.

Before they left University Park, the five had only a brief introduction to Grenada, a country of islands, the largest of which is Grenada. Known as the “Spice Island” for the production of nutmeg and other spices, Grenada is home to about 100,000 — fewer people than what crowd into Beaver Stadium for home football games.

The Penn Staters also were unsure of their assignments as interns. But within hours of their arrival, they had their first project: Create a curriculum to teach Java to secondary-school students age 15 to 17 who were recommended by their teachers for week-long workshops.

“There was no book and no guidelines, so we wrote an outline of where to start, and then we created a manual with exercises,” said Augustin Kline, a senior IST major.

Said Jimmy Mesta, “We underestimated how quickly the students would learn, however, as in the first day, we went through two days of planning.”

The final version of the manual numbered 50 pages and was built around one of the hallmarks of IST classes — problem-based learning. Borrowing from IST 240: Introduction to Computer Languages, the IST students created problems which the high-school students had to solve using the manual as a resource.

“We were always walking around and helping, but we wanted the students to help each other out, too,” said Knapton, who is following up his summer experience with a study-abroad semester in Germany.

While four of the IST interns knew Java, Mesta, who is majoring in Security and Risk Analysis (SRA), had to learn it along with the Grenada students. That was not as daunting as instructing a group of secondary-school computer teachers — an assignment Kline and Knapton took on.

Adding to the challenge was Grenada’s information-technology infrastructure.

“They have the will but not the resources,” said Brenden Jeziorski, a senior. “A lot of their computers were old, and a lot of the IT teachers used their own money for their labs.”

While the interns spent days in the country’s public schools, they were housed in dorms belonging to St. George’s University, Grenada’s leading institution of higher education. They also had a couple of weeks where they stayed at island resorts after the university closed for the summer.

Even so, they experienced far more than most tourists who visit the country — including a family block party and lessons in cricket.

“The length of our internship was good because we really got to experience a very different culture where the pace was much slower, and there was a different orientation to getting things done,” said Anna Stoltz, a junior IST major. “We were helping, but we also were learning.”

The students hope to return to Grenada in December to work on setting up a wide-area network which would link the country’s schools by means of satellite dishes.

Published on September 27, 2007, Penn State News, http://news.psu.edu

Camp Medicine provides a healthy dose of learning for Bayside students

During a 10-day trip to Grenada, Hunter Shirley snorkeled, hiked the rain forest and attended a dinner cruise with about 80 of her peers.

But those experiences were not what she’ll remember most about the Caribbean country. Instead, the teen recalls suturing dog and cat cadavers, learning how to care for farm animals and feeling a live cow’s stomach.

“I would leave again tomorrow if I could,” said Hunter, 17. “It was depressing when I got home.”

About 20 students from Bayside High School’s Health Sciences Academy attended Camp Medicine earlier this summer. St. George’s University hosts the annual camp, which has premedicine and preveterinary medicine components.

“They’re touching brains and hearts… It’s just so different from just listening to a lecture,” said Luisa Zirkle, a trip chaperone and academy teacher.

About 50 Bayside students have participated in the camp over the past three summers. This year’s high school session ran from June 27 to July 6.

For many participants – including teens from Canada, England, Ghana and Scotland – the most exciting part of the experience was working with cadavers and organs.

“I wasn’t sure how I would handle the cadavers at first,” said Mark Gemender, 17. “The first time we went in there, none of the cadavers had their heads. Believe it or not, that made it a little less freaky.”

Mark and the other premed students also took each other’s blood pressures, learned how to use a stethoscope properly and diagnosed “patients,” among other activities.

“It definitely made me feel even more confident… It felt real,” said Meghan Gawne, 17.

This past spring St. George’s extended its relationship with Bayside beyond summer camp. The university has agreed to offer admission in its medical or veterinary schools to academy graduates who meet particular criteria.

“They have come down and really impressed us,” said Bob Ryan, the university’s associate dean for enrollment planning.

Bayside is the only high school St. George’s has an agreement with, Ryan said.

The conditional agreement requires students to graduate from the academy with a minimum 3.4 grade point average and a SAT score of 1800 or higher. They must maintain a 3.2 GPA while earning an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Interested students should also take the Medical College Admission Test.

The class of 2007 is the first eligible group. Sixteen of those students have fulfilled the initial criteria.

Hunter, Mark and Meghan – all seniors at Bayside – said they’ll keep the offer in mind. However, the cost of flying to visit their families, as well as other factors, might deter them from enrolling.

Zirkle, Bayside’s academy coordinator last school year, considers St. George’s “a great option” for academy students.

“It’s a beautiful school, state of the art.” she said. “But I think most of the kids would probably say that they’ll try to get into a medical school here.”

Published September 1, 2007 By Hattie Brown Garrow, The Virginian-Pilot