University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno and alumna Gabrielle Lyon, BA'94, MA'94, accepted Project Exploration's Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at a White House ceremony.
Sereno and Lyon co-founded the non-profit Project Exploration as a science education organization in 1999 to make science accessible to the public-particularly minority youth and girls-through personalized experiences with science and scientists.
Project Exploration provides a new model for seizing after-school, weekend and summer opportunities to engage young people's sense of wonder and curiosity. Activities include interaction and collaboration with scientists and hands-on experiences and fieldwork.
Project Exploration is among 22 organizations and individuals who received the Science Mentoring Award, which includes $10,000 to further advance their work.
"There is no higher calling than furthering the educational advancement of our nation's young people and encouraging and inspiring our next generation of leaders," President Obama said last July, when the award was announced. "These awards represent a heartfelt salute of appreciation to a remarkable group of individuals who have devoted their lives and careers to helping others, and in doing so, have helped us all."
The award recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering and who belong to minorities that are underrepresented in those fields. Candidates for the Presidential Mentoring Award are nominated by colleagues, administrators and students from their home institutions. The mentoring can involve students at any grade level, from elementary through graduate school.
"Paul and Gabe's work to enhance appreciation and knowledge of science among Chicago school students has been inspirational and can serve as a model in many other populations," said Ann Marie Lipinski, UChicago's Vice President for Civic Engagement.
"Their personal commitment to these students is extraordinary, and the benefits have redounded across dozens of city schools. This presidential honor is recognition of the fact that their work has brought serious science to hundreds of students who otherwise may never have had the opportunity."
Project Exploration is a valuable partner in connecting the city's youth to UChicago's faculty and alumni, noted Sonya Malunda, Associate Vice President for Civic Engagement.
"The energy and enthusiasm and commitment that Gabe and Paul have put into Project Exploration have helped to make it a unique resource, not only in the city of Chicago, but across this country," Malunda said.