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Release: Immediate

University of Iowa hosts annual American Indian science program

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A summer program at the University of Iowa introduces American Indian high school students to college-level science work and helps them build skills through experiences that blend native cultures with contemporary sciences.

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Summer Program in the Life Sciences began at the UI nine years ago. The DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund provides AISES with money for the camp. For the last three years, the UI has also received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health.

One of several programs sponsored by AISES on college campuses, the life sciences program is an intensive three-week course of lectures, laboratory work, computer experience, field trips and other activities.

Students prepare for college while exploring career possibilities and working with native teachers and role models who come to the camp from all over the U.S. Teachers this year include John Brewer from Little Wound School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, S.D., Carolyn Penning from the All Nations School in St. Paul, Minn., and Craig Brandow from the Native American Preparatory School in Rowe, N.M.

Dr. Joe Coulter, professor of neuroscience, UI associate provost and director of Opportunity of Iowa, is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the camp director. He says that former AISES camp participants have been accepted to colleges throughout the U.S.

"There are AISES camps all over the country--at Montana State, Minnesota, New Mexico," he says. "After the students become known on those campuses, they are highly recruited by the universities, including Iowa."

Some 40 students representing 16 tribes from 11 states are participating in this year's program. They will all be in 10th grade this fall, and they are already anticipating attending college.

Jerod Benally, Navajo from Fruitland, N.M., says although he doesn't know for sure which career he will pursue, the AISES camp is an important part of his college preparation. "I want to gain more knowledge in science," he says.

Besides a lot of hard work, the camp provides plenty of time for social activities. The schedule includes games, bowling, canoeing, horseback riding, and boating and swimming at Lake Macbride.

Megan Scott, Lumbee from Pembroke, N.C., says she also has participated in AISES camps on other campuses and, while she likes learning about science, she enjoys the other activities too. "It's fun to meet new people," she says.