Press Release

30 May 2014

Van Andel Education Institute students reach important milestone

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Inaugural students graduating from high school

Grand Rapids, Mich. (May 30, 2014) – A select group of high school seniors recently gathered to reflect on their years at Van Andel Education Institute’s (VAEI) Science Academy in the Out-of-School-Time Cohort Program. Part of Van Andel Institute, VAEI is a nonprofit academic institution dedicated to advancing and promoting science education and increasing the number of students who pursue careers in science or science-related fields.

Established in 2006, the Out-of-School-Time Cohort Program requires fourth or fifth grade students to commit to three years’ worth of rigorous study for a total of 60 hours of instruction and activity each year. Each cohort of about 20 students reflects the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of Grand Rapids. The cohort design creates a supportive team that holds members accountable and models the nature of scientific work. Students are taught to think and act like scientists, posing their own hypotheses and using the tools of science to find the answers.

This year marks a milestone for the program’s inaugural class as they graduate from high school. “These pioneering students and their families took a leap of faith with us eight years ago,” said David Van Andel, Chairman and CEO, Van Andel Institute. “While they conducted their experiments, in a sense we were conducting one, too — with a new program that had a grand vision but no proven track record.”

Alondra Vergara-Diaz, a senior at Grand Rapids City High School, described the program as “awesome, because unlike a class where a teacher lectures and you just take notes, here at the Science Academy you get to decide what you want to study and it captures your attention.” Vergara-Diaz plans to attend the University of Michigan College of Engineering to study civil engineering.

Arnell Thompson, a senior at Grand Rapids Christian High School, likewise recalled that “the program taught me the importance of written science: cataloging, journaling, keeping track of what has been tested or accomplished and then going back and revising my hypotheses.” Thompson plans to attend the University of Memphis to study pre-med and plans to be a heart surgeon or obstetrician.

“The Out-of-School-Time Cohort Program is just one of the many ways in which we reach K-12 students and teachers,” said Dr. Steven Triezenberg, Director of VAEI. “We have already touched thousands of lives, instilling a love of science and learning: from Science on Saturday to High School Journal Club to professional development, and plan to touch thousands more.”

Individuals, businesses or companies interested in donating to Van Andel Education Institute are encouraged to visit www.vai.org

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About Van Andel Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Through biomedical research and science education, Van Andel Institute is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations. Find out more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting www.vai.org. 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®