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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          NEWS SERVICES
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For immediate use

June 20, 1997 -- No. 429

Program weds science, math and Native American traditions

UNC-CH News Services

CHAPEL HILL -- It's not every day that ninth-graders construct model rockets with instruction from NASA officials. But that's what will happen June 26 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when 42 American Indian rising ninth graders build boosters as officials from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., supervise.

The activities -- from 8:45 a.m. to noon in Room 330 of UNC-CH's Phillips Hall on Cameron Avenue -- will be part of a residential science program hosted June 15-July 3 by the UNC-CH Office for Student Counseling.

The 42 students selected for the program from across the nation -- 16 of them from North Carolina -- are participating in one of six regional Comprehensive Enrichment Programs sponsored this summer by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), a private, non-profit organization that seeks to build bridges between science and technology and traditional native values.

“The idea is to steer these rising ninth-graders toward higher education and a deeper appreciation for the sciences,” said Harold Woodard, associate dean of the UNC-CH Office for Student Counseling. The mission dovetails with a movement prominent among American Indians today, said Dr. Freda Porter-Locklear, a Lumbee Indian who directs this AISES Comprehensive Enrichment Program.

“Through its educational programs, AISES provides opportunities for American Indians and Alaska natives to pursue degrees in science, engineering, business and other academic areas,” said Porter-Locklear. “The trained professionals then become technologically informed leaders within Indian communities. AISES' goal is to be a catalyst for the advancement of American Indians as they seek to become self-reliant and self-determined members of society.”

Porter-Locklear, of Pembroke, completed a Ph.D. in applied mathematics at Duke University in 1991 and postdoctoral work at UNC-CH in 1996. She conducts EPA research and oversees AISES, now in its second of three years in North Carolina.

This year, the Dewitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund provided $60,000 for the AISES program here. IBM in the Research Triangle Park is funding field trips and providing three employees -- Joseph Carmen, Kharlon Galbreath and Phillip Singleton -- to supervise the program's computer lab.

Building rockets is just one of many components of the AISES program. Weekdays, the students study environmental science, geometry and physics and work with computers. High school teachers Wilma Godwin and Fannie Lowry of Pembroke, both Lumbee Indians, teach.

Afternoons and weekends the students hear guest speakers, such as those from EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, and take field trips, including an excursion to the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science in Durham. Films, science fairs and Native American storytelling also are included. Seven American Indian college students tutor and counsel the ninth-graders, giving them an idea of what college is like.

“Hosting the conference is an excellent way to introduce out-of-state American Indian students to the fine facilities, programs and services available at UNC-CH,” said Anthony Locklear, assistant dean in the Office of Student Counseling and himself an American Indian. He noted that UNC-CH faculty representatives will speak with the students during the three-week program.

AISES recruits for its Comprehensive Enrichment Program through Indian education agencies in predominantly-Indian areas, said Porter-Locklear. Acceptance is based on merit. Applicants submit grade-point averages, recommendation letters and personal essays about their goals and how those incorporate math and science.

“The program is highly sought-after,” Porter-Locklear said. “We had well over 200 applications for our 42 slots.”

And the program gets results. “The AISES pre-college program has 10 years of experience in conducting summer intensive courses in mathematics and science,” said Porter-Locklear. “Students who have attended at least three years of AISES summer programs show a 90 percent retention rate in high school, compared to 64 percent for American Indians nationally. Of 30 (enrichment program) students who graduated in 1994, 90 percent are currently enrolled in higher education.”

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Note: Dean Harold Woodard and Dr. Freda Porter-Locklear may be reached at 966-2143.
News Services contact: Laura J. Toler