MSSD Interns Take Science to the Next Level
Determined to encourage interest in science and math, Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) science teacher Del Wynne decided in 2004 to create an internship partnership with James Madison University (JMU) for MSSD students. After 10 years, the program has seen MSSD students go on to pursue degree study in the sciences.
Alumnus David Bruno, currently a freshman at Gallaudet University, was the most recent MSSD intern. Bruno says the courses he took at MSSD helped land him his summer 2013 internship. “My high school transcript had a good number of science, math, and advanced placement classes, including an AP biology class taught by Wynne. My knowledge of these subjects was an important asset to my application.”
The students live on the JMU campus for four to six weeks in the summer and receive a stipend. The internship program actually began in 1999 with Gallaudet undergraduates, but with the sustained success of its participants, in 2004 Wynne convinced program director Dr. Gina MacDonald to expand the program to include MSSD students before or after their senior year.
Bruno made valuable contacts through his JMU internship experience, especially working under Dr. Kevin Caran, who he describes as “not your ordinary professor.” The ponytailed, in-a-band professor “would invite his researching team over for delicious vegetarian-friendly dinners. He was more than glad to learn sign language so he could communicate with me. Dr. Caran served as a mentor and gave me math lessons related to organic chemistry.”
Through his placement, Bruno also met students from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID)/Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Gallaudet and had an opportunity to visit and work with students at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. “My internship was much more than just washing petri dishes! With my knowledge of chemistry from high school, I learned so many new things that students normally learn in college. I worked closely with one undergraduate student who had his own project and gave me training through hands-on activities, such as working with equipment.”
Amber Marchut, a former MSSD science teacher, worked with the JMU interns for three summers before she left to pursue her doctoral studies at Gallaudet. “I worked as a mentor with one to two students each summer. I provided guidance and support as they worked on their research projects,” she said. “The students were required to present twice and to write a research report so I also provided guidance and feedback for that part of their internship work.”
MacDonald believes the program benefits everyone involved. “The most important part of this program is giving students access to additional life experiences, learning about sciences, learning to work with different students, both hearing and deaf, from many different colleges,” she said. “Also, our hearing students benefit as much or probably more than the deaf students. Overall, the program pushes all students outside their comfort zone and helps them mature and learn in a friendly environment that is student-focused.”
In looking back on the success of the internship program, Wynne has found satisfaction in how many students have participated and is especially pleased with how interns such as Bruno have gone on to pursue science studies in college. Throughout her teaching career in biology, chemistry, and forensic sciences, Wynne has inspired a whole generation of students to turn onto science from the classroom to lab, to college, and beyond.