Dr. Carolyn Macica, Associate Professor of Medical Sciences at the Quinnipiac University Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine has been coordinating the all-volunteer Science Friday program at SMPA for many years. After SMPA went virtual, she met with SMPA’s Principal, Dr. Kelly O’Leary, to talk through how they might support students’ virtual learning. It was clear the real need was for a mentorship program for the students transitioning from middle school at SMPA to private college prep high schools. Dr. Macica created a mentorship platform that drew upon the same cohort of medical school students who had volunteered in the science lab summer program.
Quinnipiac medical school student Diane Hassanieh was instrumental in getting it off the ground. The program, which pairs medical school students with SMPA graduates over their 9th grade year, provides tutoring, mentoring and social/emotional support to ease the transition, help establish solid study and academic habits and combat the isolation caused by virtual learning during Covid.
Her dedication and commitment to ensuring the success of this program is why Diane was chosen to receive the annual (Dr.) Paul C. Montana Service Award which honors a Quinnipiac student who displays exceptional commitment to the mission, values and vision of St. Martin de Porres Academy.
Dr. Macica notified Diane of the honor, saying, “While your engagement in traditional Science Friday programming at SMPA and the QU DNA lab events for 8th graders were noteworthy, your efforts were pivotal in responding to the exceptional impact of Covid-19 on the SMPA community. Following a meeting with SMPA leadership to determine how we could create a virtual program for students on the heels of our virtual summer programming, it became apparent that an urgent need was in the 9th grade SMPA graduates. As you know SMPA follows and supports their graduates through college. This year was different- so many of their graduates were struggling with limited resources and technology, distance learning from home, and food insecurity.
As a consequence of your leadership and extraordinary organizational skills (not to mention the time spent in meetings with SMPA Graduate Support leadership and I), a mentorship program was created for the 9th grade graduates who were not only transitioning from a small, nurturing environment to high school, but were doing so in a pandemic. With your coordination efforts, we were fortunate to train and create close to 30 long-term volunteer positions for these students and others to join the college tutoring program for SMPA graduates. You were also instrumental in assisting with the creation of a collaborative online document for Netter students to log their student meeting notes while accessing student notes from the SMPA graduate support team.”
Dr. Montana, a graduate of the Quinnipiac University Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine and former Science Friday volunteer at SMPA himself, and the person for whom the award was named shared these words, “It has been and always will be a complete team effort that keeps the Netter-SMPA relationship so strong and that allows the continued expansion of opportunities for involvement and outreach between these two institutions that have such exceptional and complementary missions. In some small way I hope that an award like this inspires Netter students to continue to give their time to SMPA and to strengthen the bond between the two institutions. But it is even more powerful to know that the real inspiration has very little to do with accolades and everything to do with the inner drive of Netter students to bring their passion for science, education, and community outreach to such an amazing community of students who thrive and flourish when surrounded by enthusiastic mentorship and positive role modeling.”
Said Diana of receiving the honor, “It has been an absolute pleasure working with SMPA students and creating this program alongside Dr. Macica. This has been an exceptionally difficult year for students, and I hope our mentors have made a positive impact on their academic success. Science Friday was a highlight of my first year of medical school and I am proud to have been a part of continuing Science Friday in this virtual format and doing my part to combat the educational barriers that COVID has placed on SMPA students.”