Shreya Jain, an eighth grader from St. Joseph Hill Academy and a participant in CSI’s Science and Technology Entry (STEP) program, one of 61 STEP programs statewide, has recently won top honors in the biological life sciences competition in the Middle Division at STEP’s 12th Annual Statewide Science Conference in Albany. Shreya’s research project was entitled “Growing Crystals.”

“The STEP program has inspired me and influenced me to strive to be better in school,” Shreya said. “I have been in the STEP program for two years now and I have started seeing improvements in my projects and my grades. The STEP classes have been fun and very informative. The classes cover interesting topics that have helped me in my home school. This program has introduced me to college labs and a college atmosphere here at CSI. It has prepared me for high school and college well…I am very grateful to the STEP program at CSI.”

Debra Evans-Greene, Director of the STEP program at CSI, said that Shreya, who was recently accepted to Staten Island Technical High School with a score of 533 on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, “worked very very hard. She put a lot of work and pride into her project and she deserved to win.” According to Evans-Greene, Shreya began work on her crystal-growing experiment last December with some help from a CSI graduate student, Jonhathan Blaiz. She worked on the project on Saturday’s during STEP hour classes at CSI, but also put in a lot of time on the weekdays after school. Evans-Greene also noted that the eighth grader was shy when she began the program, but as time went on, she developed confidence.

The STEP program is a state-funded initiative geared toward students in grades 7 through 12 “who have been historically underrepresented in the professional fields of science, technology, engineering and education,” Evans-Greene explained. “Our summer program is focused on students who are entering the seventh grade the following fall, who show an interest in science and technology. Students come to campus for 12 days in July and engage in hands-on science activities. Our academic program takes place for 27 weeks when the College is in session on Saturday mornings, when the students engage in scientific experiments. Each student has to produce an oral presentation at the end of the fall program, and everyone has to produce an individual science project at the end of the spring program. STEP exposes students to the college environment so they develop a true understanding for college.”

Summing up the importance of STEP’s efforts to keep students interested in careers in the sciences, she explains, “You have to engage students when they’re young because most often, children do not see themselves as achievers or understand their hidden academic talents. It’s up to us as educators to expose our childern to the various opportunities and bring out their hidden academic talents.”

The STEP program at CSI will count Shreya as another one of their many success stories, following in the footsteps of STEP alumni who have been accepted to prestigious Colleges, and universities such as Duke, Penn State, and Northwestern, to name a few.