In keeping with its annual tradition of helping minority students and their parents learn more about health, science and the medical field, SciLife is gearing up for its fifth daylong presentation Oct. 16 at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel.

Event coordinator Cassandra Isom told the AFRO that the SciLife program – which is modeled after a 21-year-old project at Harvard University – encompasses a series of workshops and is free for attendees.

Since the workshops were launched in 2006 with about 90 participants, Isom said attendance has averaged 300 people each year.

The program targets students in grades nine through 12 who get inside information and advice from area leaders in the health and biomedical fields. Students also find out which high school classes can improve their chances for college entry, as well as how to finance their post high school education.

“They come to learn more about careers in science, health and medicine and to learn more about what their options are,” said Isom of the workshops. “It’s basically career and college exploration where we bring in nationally-known speakers who are interested in sharing their time and talents with our young people.”

While the National Institutes of Health-sponsored program is unique to the District, Isom said what makes it special is that it specifically reaches out to minority students in public schools.

“In the past, we’ve had other states contact us about the possibility of doing the program for their particular jurisdiction,” Isom said. “Obviously, because of resources, we can’t.”

But Isom said that she subsequently received a phone call a couple of years ago from a woman who works for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. The woman came up, talked with her about the particulars of the program, attended the SciLife expo and went back to Atlanta, where she initiated a similar project.

Some of the workshops have been held at NIH in Montgomery County, but Isom said they chose to return to the District this year to attract as many of its public school students as possible.

As far as recruiting students, Isom said the process takes place twice a year – in the spring and fall. In doing so, the organization distributes posters and announcements that alert students that the workshops are coming and to visit SciLife’s website to register. Advocacy organizations such as 100 Black Men have also been instrumental in getting students signed up, Isom said.

Cindy Montgomery and her 15 year-old daughter Katelin participated in the 2009 event. According to Montgomery, the workshops provided Katelin a glimpse into the “real world” of science and an opportunity to dialogue with people who work as scientists.

“Katelin’s whole life changed after attending the workshops and she became more motivated about school,” Montgomery said. “We were at NIH seeing the scientists, and the information both she and I gleaned about a career in science was extremely valuable.”

For more information about SciLife and the Oct. 16 workshops, visit www.