CURE Spotlights 2019


July 23, 2019

Headshot of Robin Saunders, EdD, MS

It is with a grateful heart that I write this message, as the fourth academic year of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) CURE Scholars Program has come to a close and our scholars are all over the city (and state) engaging in top notch summer enrichment programming. This year marked many milestones, most notably welcoming a fourth cohort, which brought our total number of CURE Scholar participants to more than 100! Additionally, our first cohort of scholars matriculated to high school and into CURE Connections (C2) — the high school portion of the UMB CURE pipeline. I’m still amazed and quite proud to see how much our first cohort has matured over the past four years.

Academically, this past fall semester, 18 scholars presented at Cancer Research Day hosted by the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Cohort 3 scholar Jaylen Galmore delivered a fascinating keynote address on his research, “Prostate Cancer: New Treatments.” This past spring semester, Richmond Levan Sakie, a Cohort 3 scholar, presented an insightful keynote address on his research, “Technological Advancements of Self-Driving Cars,” at our CURE End of Year Celebration. Additionally this spring, our UMB CURE MESA (math, engineering, and science achievement) team placed second and third in the National Engineering Design Challenge at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab; Cohort 1 scholars visited three university campuses; ALL scholars competed in our second annual STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Expo; and ALL the middle school scholars were published in the UMB Journal of STEM. Our scholars continue to impress me and so many others as they exceed expectations time and again.

This also was an exciting year for me personally, as I married Alan Davis in May. I feel so blessed and grateful that more than 40 scholars, their families, and their mentors joined us on our very special day. In fact, as my bridal party and I were outside taking photos before the ceremony, I could see the three vans carrying our scholars pull up to the church. It was such a moving and joyous moment to see my CURE family arrive that I started to cry my first tears of joy on my wedding day! Thank you to everyone for your well wishes and support during this new and wonderful chapter in my life!

This year, our CURE team welcomed TaShara Bailey, PhD, MA, as our STEM curriculum coordinator. In addition to her role with CURE, Dr. Bailey is an adjunct faculty member at the UMB Graduate School and serves on the University’s Diversity Advisory Council. Dr. Bailey’s dissertation, “Organizational Support, Satisfaction, and STEM Research Career Plans in Pipeline Interventions: A Strengths-Based Approach Among Underrepresented Students,” explores how pipeline programs can support under-represented students to achieve successful academic outcomes in STEM fields. Dr. Bailey joins Ms. Emily Blatter, MEd, LMSW, our CURE assistant director and social worker, whose passion is supporting the social-emotional needs of our CURE Scholars and helping families meet the needs of their children so our scholars can access the rigorous STEM curriculum. It’s important to note that Bailey and Blatter volunteered with the UMB CURE Program for three years before officially joining our team, so they are truly committed to our program and know our scholars very well!

We also are blessed to have Shawdae Harrison, our AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator, on our team. She has provided fantastic support to our dedicated mentors, successfully recruiting 100 new mentors this academic year, providing monthly cultural competency trainings for our mentors, and maintaining weekly communication with mentors so they are empowered to connect with their scholars in meaningful ways. Finally, we are happy to announce that Tayloe McKenna was promoted to the position of CURE contracts and grants associate. Before taking this position, for the past year, she was our administrative assistant. She works tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that CURE programming runs smoothly and that we are prepared for all possible grant opportunities that may come our way.

Here at the CURE office, we love summer enrichment programming: Cohort 1 scholars spend five exciting weeks of science and academic enrichment camp, which includes a week of Kaplan PSAT prep, a week of forensic science at Loyola University Maryland, a week of microbiology camp, a weeklong pharmacy boot camp, and a weeklong stay at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Cohort 2 scholars’ five-week summer session is with Mission Thrive Summer, a unique partnership with the UMB Institute for Integrative Health and Civic Works’ Real Food Farm. Meanwhile, cohorts 3 and 4 scholars participate in a three-week summer camp that includes a week with Planet Smilez (a camp at the School of Dentistry); a week with Michelle Giglio, PhD, learning about genomic sciences; and a week in the lab of the School of Pharmacy’s Lisa Jones, PhD. Cohorts 3 and 4 also experience a Black Panther-themed STEAM (STEM with arts) curriculum, swimming lessons at the URecFit pool, and other engaging educational activities.

In summary, we are so proud of our CURE Scholars’ accomplishments of the past year. We are proud that all that stimulation continues through our summer enrichment program, aimed at exciting our scholars about the many possibilities involving science while exploring and hopefully inspiring them to pursue careers in health care, cancer research, and other STEM-related fields. We look forward to seeing all that our AMAZING UMB CURE Scholars achieve in their bright futures! The possibilities are limitless …

Robin Saunders, EdD, MS

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