adviceToday, on a beautiful Saturday morning, MERIT’s Senior Scholars went off campus for a college tour of UMBC. Follow our day, as we tour the campus and learn all about the phenomenal Meyerhoff Scholars Program!


10:45 AM: Senior scholars travel together via shuttle to the UMBC campus and grab a quick bite to eat at The Commons. The Scholars observed the many resources available including a bookstore, lounge spaces, and meetings rooms in the beautiful building. We even had a view of the outdoor pool from the second floor!


11 AM: We met five students (including a former MERIT mentor!), all Meyerhoff Scholars, who served as tour guides for the day. After introductions, Scholars began asking questions about student life and the college application process. Sophomore, Da’Kuawn, gave Scholars advice on making applications stand out.  One point that especially resonated with Amanda was to request interviews at the colleges she’s especially interested in attending. When Da’Kuawn was a senior in high school, he personally requested interviews at all the schools he applied! Nicola and Chikaodi were curious about the workload, especially as science majors, but Da’Kuawn and fellow sophomore, Kamsi assured the Scholars that UMBC provides an incredibly supportive community, where students encourage collaboration and want everyone to succeed together.

11:45 AM: Our first stop on the tour was the Kuhn Library.
Scholars gathered around the tour guides to ask questions about effective study habits and campus resources. UMBC sophomore, Sean, pointed out the writing center which helps students write strong essays for class and even personal statements for sharroninternships and jobs.

12 PM: Da’Kuawn led us to the science buildings and many of the tour guides, like Devona, pointed out the lab where she conducts biophysics research. In fact, all of the tour guides are involved in some field of STEM research on campus!

12:15 PM: During a quick break underneath the shade, the guides shared more about the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. Blossom explained that Meyerhoff is different from any other scholarship program, because it doesn’t just give students a financial aid package, but it fosters a comprehensive support system comprised of students, advisors, and professors.

tour12:45 PM: Scholars stepped inside the rec center to get a quick peek at the indoor gym and the outdoor swimming pool! Then, at a final Q+A session, Maxwell asked Sean about the student life on campus and was pleased to hear about the 200+ student organizations on campus. Scholars were especially intrigued about the Humans vs. Zombies club that’s known to get a little rowdy during Halloween. Mr. Gadwal, a UMBC alumni, shared his experience as a treasurer on SEB (Student Events Board) and recalled the comedy events the club hosted and overall how much he enjoyed meeting new people through the club.  The Scholars thanked the tour guides for a wonderful day and hopped on the shuttle to head home.


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The Annual Symposium was living proof of MERIT’s Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.42.21 PMtransformative impact. MERIT’s Executive Director, Tyler Mains, best expressed this when he commented, “As you’ll see tonight, the Scholars aren’t average high school students; they are future health care leaders.” The Scholars’ growth was apparent at the event as the Junior Scholars shared their oral presentations on health care disparities and the Seniors presented research posters. Over 100 family members, mentors, and supporters experienced this impressive event.  Ashley Valis, Executive Director of Community Initiatives & Engagement at the University of Maryland, exclaimed, “It’s so impressive…so many words I didn’t understand, even as a 32 year old masters educated adult!”  Camille Holmes, mother of Scholar Taylor Holmes, commented, “It’s unbelievable, Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.20.16 PMsome of the technical things she has learned.”  Mentor, Cody Cichowitz, stated, “With MERIT, students who have been traditionally underrepresented in medicine have the support they need to pursue their dreams.” Attendees of the Symposium left the event with a deep understanding of the impact MERIT Scholars will have on Baltimore, as they become health care providers and positive change agents. 

Although school was out, MERIT Scholars were Symposiumactively interacting with health care professionals during their summer internships. The Junior Scholars not only learned basic laboratory skills, but also shadowed physicians at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in various departments including surgery, neurology, internal medicine, and OBGYN. The Senior Scholars completed an array of advanced summer research experiences through partnerships with the Johns Hopkins Internship in Brain Sciences, Biophysics Research for Baltimore Teens, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and the University of Maryland.  Junior Scholar Savannah Tripp remarked, the summer internship “gave me the opportunity to visit other health professions and gave me an idea of what I want to do.” Scholar Christiona Harris also added that she had the opportunity to watch a radiologist perform an X-ray on a premature baby and now knows that she wants to pursue a career helping children by becoming a pediatric surgeon.  These summer success stories were highlighted at the fourth annual MERIT Symposium.

The MERIT Symposium is right around the corner IMG 1969(Tuesday, September 23rd) and the MERIT Scholars are hard at work preparing their presentations. The Junior Scholars had the opportunity to practice their oral presentations which focus on various health disparities ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to heart disease. The Senior Scholars who will be presenting their summer internship posters gave advice. “Try not to read off the slide because you are going to be on a podium, but I really liked the video you used,” commented Senior Scholar, Amanda Lila, after listening to Junior Scholar, Taylar Reed, present. 

IMG 1978The Junior Scholars then transitioned into their first Health Professions Recruitment Exposure Programs (HPREP) session, the result of collaboration between MERIT and the Johns Hopkins Student National Medical Association (SNMA). In this session, the Junior Scholars learned how to take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and diagnose a disease. The Scholars were especially excited to assume the role of a doctor examining a patient. When asked what they learned, Scholar Christiona Harris proudly said, “I learned about different methods to test if the patient is breathing correctly.” The Scholars had the opportunity to perform a respiratory examination that included percussion and checking for tactile fremitus.

The Senior Scholars continued to navigate their way through the confusing process of college applications. With the help of their college counselors, the Senior Scholars evaluated colleges, and started the hardest part of the process: writing and editing their essays. When Scholar Chikaodi Nwanegwo had a hard time starting her essay, Scholar Sabreenah Khan immediately jumped in to reassure her remarking, “Just breathe. Write what comes into your mind.” By collaborating and encouraging each other, the Senior Scholars are forging ahead on their college application journey. 


IMG 4087-1Kicking off the Saturday session with a new tradition at MERIT, junior and senior Scholars came together to share Roses and Thorns (the highs and lows of their weeks). All around the room, junior Scholars confessed how stressed they were having to handle a heavier workload in the new school year. Many have to balance multiple AP classes, various extracurriculars like sports and student government, on top of MERIT. Seniors immediately quipped in and gave juniors advice on time management and prioritizing; all skills they had learned in the past year after having similar experiences to the current juniors. Then, the room opened up into a larger discussion with juniors asking seniors for advice. Savannah, one of the junior Scholars had a common problem amongst many other scholars of not knowing “how good is good enough.” Many Scholars nodded in agreement, blaming the long hours spent doing homework on their perfectionism with hardly any time left for fun. Just as soon as that was said, senior Sharron said, “Even when there are a lot of assignments you have to know where to set the limit because at the end of the day, you need to have some time for yourself and have fun.”

IMG 4091Switching gears to reflect on the summer internship experiences, many Scholars enjoyed seeing the “real-world” day-to-day schedule and rotations in research and in the hospital. Senior Scholar Taylor candidly shared how she initially became bored of the repetitive nature in research but eventually learned how fascinated she was by the brain as she worked alongside acclaimed neurosurgeon, Dr. Q. Savannah grew to realize that she enjoyed working with the elderly, especially because patient interactions made her passionate and “made me want to cry and work harder” for them. We can’t wait to see just how much the junior and senior Scholars will grow from here!

Juniors continued the Saturday session with SAT math and writing practice while the seniors went straight to work on researching colleges to which they will apply this year. MERIT’s college counselors, along with Mr. Mains and Mr. Gadwal, helped the Scholars with the confusing process and walked them through the various aspects of applying. At the end of the day, Maxwell came up with a wonderful idea to create a MERIT database on all of the different elements that goes into applying for each specific school like deadlines, application fees, financial aid, demographics, etc. With just a few months left until application deadlines, seniors will be hard at work writing, editing, and rewriting their personal essays!

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