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Tanay Warerkar L-R: Bud Madden, Greenpoint Lions, Peggy Augoustatos, M.S. 126 coordinator for space program, Dominick Allen, 14, Elizabeth Baez, 13, and Millaine Sena, 14, all seniors at M.S. 126 and part of the space program scholarship Tanay Warerkar

JHS 126 Students Selected for Space Camp Scholarship Program in Turkey

For the students at Junior High School 126 in Greenpoint, hopes and expectations are soaring sky high.

Over the past two years, a group of eight students at the school has been training with the Global Friendship through Space Education program, a California-based non-profit organization that connects students across the world through the study of space-focused science and technology.

Five countries, the US, Turkey, Poland, Bulgaria and Israel have participated in the program, which offers scholarships to gifted or disadvantaged students, allowing them a chance to spend six days at Space Camp in Turkey with their Turkish counterparts.

This year, 12 students at JHS 126 made the cut – making them the first school in Brooklyn to do so. Last year the school was unable to get the requisite license from the Department of Education in time for the program.

But now the students at the school, most of who come from low-income families, are saddled with the task of raising $15,000 in order to make the airfare for the trip that will take place at the end of June.

So far, through fundraising efforts on part of the students such as bake sales, the group has managed to raise just $3,400.

“Just imagine experiencing something of this magnitude for children so young, particularly traveling to Turkey,” said JHS 126 Principal Marcos Bausch. “The exposure they get will allow them to have a diverse and multi-cultural learning experience.”

On Tuesday evening, three of the participating students met with members of the Greenpoint Lions Club, a volunteer, community-service organization part of the worldwide Lions Club International Organization, to discuss their program and means of fundraising with the group.

For the participating students, the yearlong program, conducted almost entirely after school hours, has involved Skype calls and email exchanges with students from their partner school in Turkey. Students interact about their day-to-day lives and with the supervision of a NASA expert talk, research, model and collaborate on space-related projects.

“When we were Skyping with them, they were very excited,” Millaine Sena, 14, a senior. “You could just see them in the camera, they were jumping, they were really happy.”

“They told us they can’t wait till we come down, and it should be new experience for them too not only for us,” added Elizabeth Baez, 13, also a senior.

“To see our culture and their culture combine,” said Dominick Allen, 14, the third student present at the Lions Club meeting, rounding out Baez’ sentiment.

For the students, the curriculum this year has consisted of the Toys in Space program, where students work with different toys like a jump rope, paper boomerangs, and hula-hoops to study the effects of microgravity and fundamental concepts in Physics like force and motion.

At the Space Camp in Turkey, students will participate in various cultural activities, sightseeing, and in perhaps what will be the most exhilarating to students, a simulated space shuttle mission, where students will get to experience of working and living in space.

The community response to the students’ fundraising drive has been middling at best so far. The largest single contribution has come from Greenpoint’s Town Square, a community organization, which contributed $500 to the fundraising efforts.

The group of students, led by coordinator by Peggy Augustatos, is hoping to raise a large portion of the funds at the school’s Sports Night, where parents, teachers and students compete in various sports-themed activities.

Augustatos said the group would have to raise the funds by May 1st at the latest in order to secure the air tickets.

The school is accepting donations in order for the students to be able to travel to Turkey. For more information contact Peggy Augustatos at (PH) 718-782-2527 ext 1081 or paugous@schools.nyc.gov.

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