Janis Davis sat in the audience on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and watched as her sixth grade son officially became a UMB CURE Scholar by slipping on the signature white laboratory coat.
Michael Davis, a sixth grader at Franklin Square Middle School, wasn’t the first in the family to follow this route. A close relative, Katelyn Paige, was in the first group of students in the prestigious program – now eighth graders – and she sat just a few rows behind him.
The UMB CURE Scholars Program identifies promising middle school students and provides them mentoring, workshops, and hands-on experience in laboratories. The goal of the program, supported by the National Cancer Institute’s Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE), is to set the students on a path toward a career in the health sciences. This year, 26 new sixth graders joined the 54 seventh and eighth grade scholars.
“It’s a great program,” Janis Davis said. “It gives the kids the opportunity to really see what they can do. They may have a vision but think they can’t go there. This shows them that it can be done.”
UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, said the University started the program because talent is universal, but opportunity is not.
“We’ve established that in these students, we’ve got talent to spare, but now we have to make the opportunity,” he told the crowd of over 200 students, family members, mentors and dignitaries at Saturday’s event. “We have to dismantle the barriers that separate our young people from their potential and from their purpose. We have to give these students what they need to rise because I’ve seen them rise, and it’s beautiful to watch.”
When entering middle school, Katelyn wanted to go to a private girl’s school, but now her mother sees it was a blessing she wasn’t accepted. The UMB CURE Program has “absolutely” made a difference in her life, Karin Soden explained.
“She went from one of those who wanted to be a singer or a dancer to wanting to be an orthodontist or a pediatrician,” she said of Katelyn, who attends Franklin Square Elementary/Middle. “It changes their future thoughts and career choices.”
Katelyn says that her mentors have helped to guide her and have kept her on the right path.
“I can contact my mentor and she will study with me and make sure my grades are good and ask how I’m dong in school, and she takes us to fancy places,” Katelyn said.
U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, JD ’76, a 1976 graduate of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law who helped to launch the CURE Scholars Program at UMB in 2015, also attended the ceremony and told the parents how important it is to expose children to opportunities.
“Instead of spending time on social media, spend time searching the Internet for opportunities,” he said. “First of all, we have to expose our children and then we have to show them the way, because if we don’t show them the way, the streets will.”