District Holds Scholar’s Summer Institute

SSI Students

Forty students from across Okaloosa County participated in the Scholar’s Summer Institute (SSI), a rigorous engaging summer enrichment program designed to promote minority interest and achievement in advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) courses.

SSI targets rising 7th and 8th-grade middle school students who have potential based upon Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) scores and academic history to succeed in advanced courses. The purpose of the program is to:

  • To meet federal and state mandates regarding equity and access by increasing minority enrollment and performance in advanced (weighted) coursework.
  • To optimize the awareness and usage of advanced course offerings among minority families.
  • To promote interest and achievement in STEM courses.

The curriculum focuses on:

  • Mathematical and Scientific Problem Solving
  • Science Processes
  • Reading and Student Talk
  • Hands-On Activities

The Scholar’s Summer Institute culminated with a Summer Scholars Awards Celebration on June 29, 2018, at Ruckel Middle School. The following students received awards based on their leadership, citizenship, and academic performance:

  • Math: Sara Lin, Ruckel Middle School
  • Science: Kealaokalani Batiste, Ruckel Middle School
  • ELA:  Neha Joshi, Ruckel Middle School
  • Team Building: Angelina Braxton, Lewis School
  • Overall: Elena Gutierrez, Bruner Middle School

The guest speaker at the Awards Celebration was Captain Wale Lawal, a motivational speaker, who encouraged the students to always do their best. Captain Lawal graduated from the US Air Force Academy with a degree in Materials Science in 2013. During his time at the Academy, he played Division 1 Football, and competed nationally, as a heavyweight boxer where he won two Heavyweight National Boxing Titles. After his bachelor’s degree, he was selected under the National Scholarship Program to pursue his Masters and then Ph.D. at Rice University in Materials Science and Nano Engineering, which he completed in only three years. He currently works as the Director of the Advanced Weapons Experimentation Facility where the Air Force Research Lab conducts their weapons and explosive tests. In addition to being an athlete, officer, and scientist, Captain Lawal is a public speaker and mentor. He serves as one of the youth directors at his church and recently started a non-profit African-aid organization delivering clothing, food and medical supplies.