Valley teens boost biotech class 


DERBY -- Area students are helping their peers jump into the 21st century as the
Valley United Way's Youth Leadership committee -- composed of teen-agers --
has awarded funding to a cutting edge education program here.

The $900 grant will help June Stevens, a science teacher at Derby High School,
establish a biotechnology club in 2001, where students will learn about the
scientific theories that will shape tomorrow.

"We are going to be extracting DNA from plant and animal cells. We are going to
be examining different proteins," Stevens said. "And we will use some of the methods that they use in

Stevens said she is no stranger to biotechnology, a field that has created many jobs throughout
Connecticut. Before becoming a teacher, she was a medical technologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital. 

To make the science more appealing for students, Stevens, who has been published in biotechnology
magazines, will connect science topics with pop culture themes. 

"We are going to incorporate elements of Jurassic Park," she said, referring to the popular film. "Kids
will follow the stocks of biotechnology companies and will hopefully get a chance to actually visit them." 

In the past year, principal Charles DiCenso said Stevens has taken pains to make biotechnology part of
the school curriculum. He expects 100 sophomore students to take part in an upcoming biotechnology
class that Stevens has planned. 

"It is nice to have her bring that level of expertise to the classroom. ... Anytime that you get new material
and programs, it is a positive thing," DiCenso said.

The teen-agers on the Youth Leadership committee learn valuable skills as they decide what groups
should be awarded grants, said Lisa A. Shappy, director of the Valley United Way's Volunteer Action
Center in Ansonia. 

Composed of 34 members from Valley high schools, the committee is directed by a six-member
executive board, Shappy said. 

Local organizations have to go through a detailed application process before they can receive money,
Shappy said. Youth committee members will examine an applicant's financial status to see if additional
funding is warranted, she said.

"They visit the program that needs money and ask questions," Shappy said. 

With 10 years of service in the Valley, Shappy said the Youth Leadership program has accomplished
much, distributing $30,000 to local groups in that time. 

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