by Hannah Black

University of West Georgia student Reshawndra Hutchins-Trapp is one of 60 educators nationwide accepted into the Society for Science and the Public’s 2019-20 Advocate Grant Program.

Reshawndra Hutchins-TrappHutchins-Trapp, a seventh grade science teacher at the Elite Scholars Academy, is enrolled in the College of Education’s Doctor of Education in School Improvement program.

The Advocate Grant Program empowers adult mentors like Hutchins-Trapp to motivate underserved students, focusing on scientific and engineering research. Because disadvantaged students are less likely to be finalists at Society for Science events, the program’s goal is to encourage kids to enter their projects into competitions.

The chosen applicants receive training, a $3,000 stipend and a paid trip to Washington, D.C. where they can meet in person. The program gives advocates a chance to learn from each other and serve as a support group throughout the journey.

Hutchins-Trapp became interested in the Advocate Grant Program through the Society of Science website. She was looking for information about its International Science and Engineering Fair when she discovered the application for the program.

“After reading the goals of the Advocate Grant Program, I was immediately interested,” said Hutchins-Trapp. “I wanted to increase the number of students who participate in science research. The program provides funds that would allow me to give students the materials they need to be successful.”

Hutchins-Trapp was one of 300 applicants for the program and one of 60 chosen to be an advocate. When she found out that she was accepted, she described her feelings as “shocked” and “joyful.”

“Working as an advocate will allow me to develop future scientists and engineers,” said Hutchins-Trapp. “I am really looking forward to nurturing the students’ love of science. Watching them reach their full potential is exciting to me.”

Elite Scholars Academy is a Title I school, which means it has a large amount of low-income students and receives government funding to assist in meeting their educational goals. Working at the Elite Scholars Academy is what inspired Hutchins-Trapp to pursue her doctorate in school improvement.

“I have seen the positive results of improving curriculum and other factors in my own school district, and I believe funding to low-income areas can help give a high level science and math education to students,” said Hutchins-Trapp.

She explained that students who enter research competitions are more likely to choose careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. They are also more likely to choose post-secondary options, whether it be trade school or college. Because the Advocate Grant Program puts much of its focus on competitions, Hutchins-Trapp said it is a great way to get her students involved and reaping the benefits.

Additionally, Hutchins-Trapp always works to be a great role model for her students, showing them that anyone can be successful. As an African-American woman who majored in science, she believes she can bring something unique to the program.

“I am familiar with the challenges my students face,” said Hutchins-Trapp. “I think my viewpoint will continue to help the dialogue addressing disparities in access to high-quality STEM education.”

Hutchins-Trapp attributes some of her success to UWG and said it has fully prepared her to take on the new role of advocate. Every class she has taken has provided new skills and techniques for better teaching her students. She will graduate with the knowledge she needs to be a more reflective educator and scholar.

Looking forward into the next school year, Hutchins-Trapp is excited to get started as an advocate. She is ready to begin working with the students and is thankful the Advocate Grant Program chose her as a mentor to provide competition opportunities for students.

“As a teacher, it is nice to be recognized for your work with growing student achievement,” concluded Hutchins-Trapp. “There are so many things I want to do for my students, and this program is going to help me achieve those dreams.”

Posted on July 30, 2019