Learning Science & Math, Using Health & Beauty

Dina Borysenko works with an Advanced Academy student.

After receiving a grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, veteran Alverno educators Dina Borysenko, assistant professor of Physical Sciences, and Justin LaManna, assistant professor of Biology, along with high school mathematics instructor Kristi Koshuta, teamed up to launch the Girls Advanced Academy of Science and Mathematics.

The first-year pilot program was targeted to high school minority girls from central city choice, charter and public schools, and participants were accepted into the program on the recommendation of their high school math or science teachers. Because each student was known to have an aptitude for science and math, the purpose was to introduce them to a rigorous pre-college curriculum and expand their knowledge and curiosity through the study of health and beauty products. Specifically, the young girls learned about skin and cell structures and their relevance to beauty; the chemistry of beauty products and choice of ingredients; geometry and its connection to beauty and symmetry; and statistics and data collection.

In its first year, Advanced Academy welcomed 23 young women to attend academic sessions every Friday evening at Alverno College. Ninety-two percent of participants were women of color and, while the program received tremendous parental support, many of those involved will be the first in their family to attend college. Although the purpose of the program was to provide opportunities for advanced learning to further develop their natural abilities, the hope is that participants will not only attend college after high school, but also pursue science- and math-related careers.

Advanced Academy has already received positive feedback from students, parents and teachers. Future plans include expanding the list of participating high schools and increasing the number of student participants.