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Student Grants First of Their Kind in Morris District

Seven students in the Morristown High School Science Academy applied for and will receive funding from the Morris Educational Foundation.

Over 20 years, the Morris Educational Foundation has received grant applications for many programs from many people within the Morris School District.

Recently, they received what at least one MEF member considers the best grant applications ever. That's some accomplishment, considering they were from seven Morristown High School students.

And on Friday morning, MEF and Board of Education member Ann Rhines stopped by the high school's Science Academy to present acceptance letters to those students, the first-ever student grant applicants in the district.

"This is above and beyond what your regular course requires," said Rhines, who taught in the District from 1962 to 2001. "I am hoping research will be a passion that will take you through your whole lives. This makes me feel good."

The approximately $1,000-worth of grants--in addition to another $1,000 the group was just awarded through The Young Science Achievers Program--will be used to research projects ranging from finding ways to further compress music files, to assessing caloric restrictions in connection to tumor growth in nemotodes, to designing and developing an orthopedic accessory that could connect to any fashionable, but perhaps not terribly comfortable, backpack.

Junior Naomi Pohl's experiment is looking into the combination of ocean acidification and its rising temperature on "the calcification of bi-valve shells, like oysters and mussels," she said.

When she, like her fellow students, heard every grant application had been approved by the MEF, Naomi said she was stunned.

"I think it's great that we are finally getting recognized," said Naomi, referring to the school's Science Academy. "This class takes a lot of time and concentration. It's great the district is finally recognizing these efforts."

The grant writing process began with the learning of the practice and principles of conducting ones own grant writing and research, said MHS science teacher Erin Colfax, who first approached the MEF last spring about the grants.

"It was really exciting," Colfax said. "I never imagined they would all receive the grants. They have opened the opportunity for teachers to apply for grants. That they considered some student grants was really exciting.

"All of them are really interesting and diverse," she added, noting the seven students are both members of the Science Academy as well as outside the program.

It was part of the reason Rhines said she wanted to hand-deliver the students' the grant approval letters, which usually are mailed.

"I wanted to personally meet and thank you for applying," she said. "If nothing else, this is something to keep on file to show you have received a grant from a foundation."

And that is something that can help these young researchers down the road, should they decide to continue in their respective fields after school.

"Research is not easy," Rhines said. "You need backing, but it's also very satisfying, especially if you do something that helps someone else. It's very special; you should feel really good about yourselves."

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