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Students from Austin-East and Fulton High Schools this month studied cancer genetic markers; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; and written and verbal communications as part of the UT-Project GRAD Summer Institute.

Students in the communications track of the UT-Project GRAD Summer Institute

The weeklong residential program, taught by UT faculty, invited 130 rising juniors and seniors to experience what it was like to live, eat, and attend classes on a college campus. Students chose one of several tracks: honors, which included advanced science and the study of cancer genetic markers; communications, which included learning how to develop websites; and STEM, which can be applied to engineering problems.

Students also took courses in core subjects, including mathematics, English, and college research skills. Additionally, they did service projects and volunteered at the Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED), Knox Area Rescue Ministries, the Phyllis Wheatley Center, and the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

To be eligible for the 2013 UT residential institute, all 130 students had to have completed the Pellissippi State Summer Institute in June 2011 or 2012.

This is the summer institute’s twelfth year at UT. The Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) program was designed to increase high school graduation rates and postsecondary education in center city schools.

“This year’s Summer Institute was nothing short of fantastic,” said Steven Waller, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sports Studies, and one of the Summer Institute’s co-directors. “We had the privilege of working with a number of very bright students, many whom will be UT students in the days to come. The students were challenged by the rigor of the Summer Institute, and many left with a clearer understanding of what it takes to get admitted into a university like UT and the work ethic that is required to graduate.”

Students who were in the honors track of the summer institute

If the students complete two Summer Institutes and meet other requirements of the Project GRAD program, they will qualify to receive a $4,000 scholarship to attend an accredited two-year or four-year college of their choice.

The Project GRAD Summer Institute is a collaboration between Project GRAD Knoxville and UT. It is operated out of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, and is housed in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies.

In addition to Waller, the other program co-director is Shawn Spurgeon, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling.