Math and Science Academy seniors relieved after final project completion

Rachel Zidow, Contributor

Allison Graves

The Math and Science Academy (MSA) is a well-revered program, among the nine academy programs available in Virginia Beach City Public Schools, engineered to assist students who wish to pursue coursework and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“The academy’s mission is for these kids to be leaders in their fields, and that we’d love for those fields to be STEM related,” said academy advisor Allison Graves. “My hope is that their professional lives and university experiences benefit from the experience that they’ve had here.”

As the year finishes out, seniors reflect on the positive impacts from being in the MSA.

“I loved the experience I’ve had through being in the academy,” said senior Andrew Sorenson. “The best thing is knowing that each one of my peers shares my passion for math and science, and they are pursuing an education to apply those skills and improve the world we live in.”

MSA guidelines require that all academy seniors complete a senior project as an “exit ticket” from the academy.

“Students can choose to complete one of two types of senior projects,” said Graves. “For a research project, they explore a question they design by developing and executing a research plan, examining the data they find, and writing a scientific research paper; however, for a capstone project, students shadow a professional in a STEM related field and configure a way to apply what they’ve learned from the experience.”

Students who complete a research-based senior project present their scientific research paper to either the Virginia Junior Academy of Science or the Tidewater Science and Engineering Fair. Throughout the process, they are required to invest 140 hours of time in their work. Students who complete a capstone project do their professional shadowing for a total of 70 hours over the summer prior to senior year.

“I spent my summer with Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation completing my hours for my capstone project, in which I got to observe the different projects they were working on and learn how the process works,” said senior Kelly Wiegand. “For my senior project, I created stepping stones that can be used as an educational tool and placed them at a church I volunteer at to give back to the community.”

Now that Class of 2017 MSA students have completed their academy requirements, these students have a lot to look forward to in the near future.

“I will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall to study economics and play football,” said senior Nick Low. “I am glad that the academy introduced me to challenging classes and prepared me for the real world experiences I will have.”

MSA seniors credit Graves for guiding them through the academy and senior project process.

“Mrs. Graves started off as a guide to help us discover what we’re passionate about and what we want to do in the future,” said Kelly. “She has been the biggest motivator in pushing us all to succeed and graduate the academy.”