Students to travel to Adirondacks this summer as part of inaugural climate and science institute
By Chloe Bennett
The Adirondacks will host 48 high school students this summer to learn about the environment, science and justice. The Timbuctoo Climate Science and Careers Summer Institute will run three 12-day sessions for sophomores and juniors from Brooklyn and schools near the borough. The program is designed to grant students access to the wilderness and history of the park and imagine careers in science.
After securing $2.1 million from last year’s state budget, Paul Hai, associate director of the Adirondack Ecological Center and others from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) began creating a curriculum for the institute.
The City University of New York Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn partnered with SUNY ESF and is leading the recruitment process. The recruitment choice was deliberate, Hai said, and it could lead to diversifying those entering science fields.
“If we’re going to transform who is in those institutions, then we have to think really strategically about how we do that,” Hai said.
The first two days of the program will take place at Medgar Evers College before heading to Kingston, Syracuse and finally the ESF Newcomb campus in the Adirondacks where students will learn more about climate change and social justice. The students will also take field trips to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, John Brown Farm in Lake Placid and other locations in the park.
Each session is set to have 16 students and six undergraduate staff members from Medgar Evers College and SUNY ESF. Hai, who leads the program, said the institute is free to participants and they will receive a stipend of $1,000 after completing the program. Providing students with financial support was important to the mission, Hai said.
“Summer jobs may be critical to enabling them to be paying for school,” Hai said. “There’s a whole host of circumstances in which taking two weeks to come up here may present, not a barrier, but a burden.”.
Naming the institute after Timbuctoo is representative of its mission, according to Hai. The settlement in what is now North Elba was created in the late-1840s after wealthy abolitionist Gerrit Smith gave parcels of land to free Black men. Hai said the institute is using a similar strategy by granting access to careers for young people underrepresented in science fields.
“It’s the same idea of trying to take a focused action in order to provide access to those who are being denied it,” Hai said.
The program, which is set to run from July 10 to Aug. 18, received public support from the Adirondack Council’s Aaron Mair and the state’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus. Sen. Zellnor Myrie from Brooklyn and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages sponsored SUNY ESF’s funding request last year.
Mair, director of the Forever Adirondacks campaign, said creating a pipeline between the Adirondacks and downstate schools could diversify workforces including the New York State Forest Rangers and the Department of Environmental Conservation. But the institute could benefit more than just the state, he said.
“If we capture the hearts and minds and the opportunities for young New Yorkers, all of us in the country win,” Mair said.
At the end of the program, participants will be introduced to organizations doing work similar to their career interests. Hai said it was critical that the institute create connections near the students’ homes.
“At the end of the institute, not only will they have had credible experience, but they’ll have been connected to individuals in their own communities,” Hai said.