Project VOYAGE (Vocational Opportunities for Youth Achieving Goals in Education) is an after-school, hands-on STEM-based apprenticeship program that builds on and continues the success of BMC’s fully funded multi-year after-school program, Project SAIL. Project VOYAGE provides one-on-one mentoring opportunities for the students who exhibit leadership skills and express a deep interest and aptitude for continuing a longer, more intensive educational involvement with the Bayfront Maritime Center’s after-school activities.
Thank you to Project VOYAGE mentor, Anne Sinopoli, for her fine work. Anne is a 2012 Graduate of Clarkson University where she majored in Mechanical Engineering. Her job at GE brought her to Erie where she began to volunteer for BMC, first at our fundraisers, and then joined the Board of Directors in 2014. Anne’s enthusiasm is contagious! When she learned of a Project VOYAGE student who was interested in a STEM related field, she jumped at the chance to assist Ghana in pursuing her career path. Thanks to The Erie Community Foundation for funding Project VOYAGE.
In Anne’s words:
“I mentored Ghana on researching educational and professional opportunities in the medical field. We started by learning the differences between a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, M.D. (allopathic) degree and a D.O. (osteopathic) degree. We researched local universities that offered medical programs and assessed Ghana’s eligibility. Ghana even held an interview with a doctor who owns his own practice in Erie. Ghana was able to conclude she wanted to pursue a full doctor degree. She would like to work in the medical field in the U.S. and have the option to work abroad in the future.
To help Ghana get an idea of what college would be like and how the application process would work we visited Gannon University’s open house. We listened to a panel of current students, a presentation by admissions, took a tour and had lunch with a professor.
Ghana also worked with Mercyhurst Biology professor, Sara Turner, studying the deer tick population on Presque Isle. Dr. Turner received her BA in Biology from Pomona College in Claremont, CA and her PhD from Purdue University in 2007. Dr. Turner’s research lies in the broad area of conservation and evolutionary genetics, but she is particularly interested in understanding the genetics and microevolutionary adaptations of wild populations of vertebrate animals.
Ghana had the honor of studying with Sarah in the laboratory at Mercyhurst University, so that Ghana could experience the learning environment of a college campus and further her dream of becoming a medical doctor one day. Dr. Turner states, “Deer ticks can often be carriers for the bacteria Borrelia burgdoferi. that causes Lyme disease. More than four and a half million visitors come to Presque Isle annually, making it one of the most popular state parks in the United States. Due to the high traffic, it is crucial to monitor the deer tick population because it is often a vector for pathogens that may be debilitating to humans and animals. DNA analysis of ticks collected by flagging was conducted using Polymerase Chain Reaction and gel electrophoresis to determine if ticks were vectors for B. burgdoferi.”
Dr. Sara Turner’s research lies in the broad area of conservation and evolutionary genetics.
“Ghana helped conduct every step of the laboratory work. It began with dissection of the tick, followed by extraction of the DNA (genetic material) from the tick and if present the bacteria. Then we did a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which can take a couple of copies of a specific DNA sequence and make millions. We then ran the PCR on an agarose gel, which can separate out fragments by size. If Borrelia burgdoferi DNA was present then a band would show up on this gel, and we would know that a given tick did have the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.”
We are indeed fortunate to have such highly skilled volunteers giving back to their community. Thank you for your dedication to BMC and for your commitment to the education of inner-city youth.
Project VOYAGE apprentices undergo a long-term, hands-on, 1:1 intensive mentorship with a BMC staff member or one of BMC’s highly skilled volunteers. They design and create a master project involving the community in a STEM topic area. Apprentices will create a portfolio documenting their experiences and do a final public presentation on their project. At the conclusion of their mentorship, they will have built their resumes, exercised key life skills, demonstrated community involvement and practiced public speaking.
Gage, one of BMC’s current Project VOYAGE apprentices, completed multiple projects in the past few months. Thanks to funding from the Erie Community Foundation, Gage and other Project VOYAGE apprentices are learning valuable job skills through one-on-one, long-term mentoring with accomplished professionals. Gage is working with Christopher Laird, a retired FMC mechanical engineer who is also an accomplished boatbuilder and carpenter. With Chris’ assistance, Gage built a shelf for his sister and a wine rack for his mother. Gage has learned construction drafting, the milling process, and how to professionally finish his projects. Chris said that Gage “is motivated to accomplish and finish projects, stays focused, and has become very familiar with various tools and shop safety.”