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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

For URI’s Opportunity Scholars,
early exposure to science was critical to success

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 17, 2002 -- When Stefanie Kubbe of Providence was a sophomore at Mount Pleasant High School, she took an oceanography class that changed her life.

"Learning about the whole underwater world grabbed my attention," she wrote in a recent essay. "I made a drastic change in my future career. I no longer wanted to be a cosmetologist. I wanted my future to involve something that related to the ocean."

Sylvia Sham of Cumberland had a similar experience. "As a little child, I was an outdoorsy type and had this amazing curiosity for science," she recalled. "Where most other little girls were wide-eyed about Barbie dolls and New Kids on the Block, I was spreading science to the neighborhood" by creating a Nature Club and an environmental newspaper.

The two students’ scientific curiosity and environmental awareness has earned them full-tuition scholarships to the University of Rhode Island through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Opportunity Scholars program. Designed to encourage under-represented students to study environmental, food and agricultural sciences, Kubbe and Sham were selected for the scholarship based on academic achievement, letters of recommendation, personal interviews, and evidence of interest and commitment to studying the required subject areas.

The scholarship program now supports seven URI students, including Lisa Betancur of Cumberland; Jihan Davis of Newtown, Pa.; Dioscaris Garcia of Central Falls; Aibel Minier of New York City; and Adriana Ramirez of Portsmouth.

Kubbe said that even though she grew up in the inner city and had little contact with the ocean, her one oceanography class "really opened my eyes to something different. Every time I learned something new, it fueled my passion for the subject."

A junior at URI studying aquaculture and marine resource development, she already has plans to pursue graduate school to study marine chemistry. "I’d like to learn about how the dissolved material in the ocean effects marine life. I hope to use my knowledge of the subject to make people aware of the danger that pollution imposes on precious marine life and human life."

At Mount Pleasant High School, Kubbe was captain of the gymnastics team and a member of the senior class executive committee. She also was a volunteer at St. Thomas Church and Nickerson House.

Sham is a freshman studying environmental science and management with plans to perhaps become a scientist or field researcher. She is also considering opening up a boutique "that would reuse a lot of everyday things that get thrown out. I want to use my skills as an artist to get the message out to society that we really need to wake up and put in an effort because it’s up to us now, not the people 100 years down the line."

After her first semester at URI, Sham said her favorite thing about her college experience has been the intelligence and open-mindedness of the faculty. "They’ve taught me to keep my head on straight and be rational about environmental protection rather than letting my tangle of emotions get in the way."

As a student at Cumberland High School, Sham performed with the school chorus and the CLEF singers, illustrated a disaster preparedness coloring book for the city of Pawtucket, and worked as a graphic designer for the Living Lessons Theatre Production Company.

For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892

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