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Stargazing with POTUS: ExpandED Options Teens Get the Opportunity of a Lifetime

Candace Brazier-Thurman

Candace Brazier-Thurman is Program Director of ExpandED Options.

Pictured: Sofia (Sofy) Alvarez, a senior from Brooklyn International High School, with President Obama. (Photo credit: The White House). Click to enlarge.

Six high school seniors – whose families come from Nigeria, Ecuador, China, Paraguay, Iraq and New York – came together under the same stars, on the same lawn of the same house -- The White House. And one of those teens, Sofy Alvarez, stargazed with the President, teaching him how to view the moon through a telescope.

Chris Burgos, Yinghui Zou, Agatha Sofia (Sofy) Alvarez and Najm Qachi from Brooklyn International High School; Osarhuwense Otasowie from Midwood High School; and Kyra Ali from South Brooklyn Community High School are all ExpandED Options students who attended the White House Astronomy Night on October 19th.

These six students may originally hail from all parts of the globe, but they have at least one thing in common – a passion for stargazing and studying the universe. Through ExpandED Options, they participated in a City Astronomy apprenticeship at Beam Center, learning how to weld an eight-foot geodesic dome and code a light show that makes constellations appear inside this dome. They also learned basic astronomy lessons that could then be taught to younger students. These lessons used umbrellas and glow-in-the-dark paint to create constellations, solar ovens to heat up s’mores, and nesting boxes and origami to create models of the solar system.

Young scientists sight-seeing before a night with the stars. L-R: Kyra Ali, Osarhuwense Otasowie, Yinghui Zou, Chris Burgos, Sofia (Sofy) Alvarez and Najm Qachi. (Photo credit: Heather Kramer) Click to enlarge.


ExpandED Options is an initiative that connects NYC high school students to field-based learning and real-world employment opportunities. After school and on weekends, students ages 16 and older apprentice with sports, cultural and science organizations that teach them how to lead activities and teach skills in their respective areas of interest. Students earn academic credit for opportunities that ultimately lead to paid summer jobs.

Research shows that field-based learning opportunities such as these can help youth stay engaged in school. Through granting credit for apprenticeships, ExpandED Schools is enhancing students’ educational experiences by connecting course curricula to future college and career options.

And in this case, connecting high school seniors to scientists, engineers and visionaries, not to mention the President of the United States.

L-R: High school seniors Yinghui Zou, Chris Burgos and Najm Qachi (Photo credit: Heather Kramer)  Click to enlarge.



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