Five Red Cloud students accepted to Georgetown University's Pathways to Success program

posted on March 6, 2012

While many of their teenage peers are relaxing poolside or watching summer reruns, five Red Cloud High School students will be heading to Washington, DC for an intensive academic experience in the fields of science, technology, and health. Junior Tobie Little Finger, and sophomores Savannah Jensen, Genriel Chase In Sight-Ribitsch, Gabriella Rodriguez, and Kirkland Ross were selected for the program and received invitations in mid-February. The invites were contingent on their acceptance, and their willingness to tackle all the rigors of the program, and all five students signed on to go.

Of the group, Little Finger is the only one who is going for the second time, having completed the primary level during the summer of 2011. She had first heard about the program during her freshman year, when a Georgetown representative visited her biology class to talk about Pathways. She recalled, “I instantly knew [Pathways to Success] was for me, so I kept my grades up (the program requires a grade point average of at least 3.5 overall), applied the next year, and got in.”

Little Finger said that the best part of the program overall was being exposed to different medical careers. She explained, “I have an interest in studying in the medical field, becoming a midwife and working with the Indian Health Service. Last summer, we had a day where we visited the Children’s Network Hospital and different doctors came and talked to us about their jobs.”

When asked what specific aspects of the experience she most enjoyed, she replied, “My favorite part of last year was being in a big city, and working in the university laboratory and especially learning how to extract DNA…Also, seeing the ocean for the first time.” The greatest challenge, according to Little Finger, was “being the Native girl with the ‘weird’ last name.” That said, she had a good experience overall with her fellow students, and is excited to return for a second year.

The Pathways to Success program has operated annually since 2002, with a founding sponsorship by the Goldman Sachs Foundation. It is currently supported by a $1.2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, with additional support from The Fedex Foundation. The intensive six-week long summer experience begins with two preparatory weeks of online correspondence work, followed by a month-long academic program on the Georgetown campus in Washington, DC. The goal of the Pathways program is to cultivate in its participants an interest in health, science, and technology, and prepare them to potentially pursue careers in biomedical science, health care, and science technology. It also works to guide its students through the complex world of higher education, including college applications and financial aid.

The central feature of the on-campus component is the three-week-long Summer Biomedical Science Institute. The primary objectives of the Institute, according to program literature, are to: 1) enhance the students’ academic skills, thus increasing college acceptance and retention in science majors; 2) spark enthusiasm and inspire hope for a future health-related career; 3) create a community network providing support for participants and others in the region. Another major benefit is that first-year students receive two college credits for their participation in the courses entitled "Communicating Science Seminar" and "The Language of Health and Disease Laboratory."

Participating students take courses in the National Health Service’s Discovery Center—an ultramodern research laboratory. They also work in the O’Neill Family Foundation Clinical Simulation Center at the NHS—a fully equipped clinical lab that includes adult and pediatric patient simulators.

Even though the program is still a few months away, the students are already getting excited about going. When asked what she was most looking forward to, Genriel Chase In Sight-Ribitsch replied, “I can’t wait to meet new people, and hear their perspective on both college and science.” Kirkland Ross said he knows the program will be a good fit for him because he “plan[s] to go to college, graduate with a major in a science-related subject, and get a Master’s Degree.” When asked what he is most nervous about, he replied, “Flying to Washington DC!”

Ross is not the only one among the group for whom this will be his first trip by plane. It will be the first of many exciting experiences awaiting the five students this summer.