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Brockport clubs join forces to aid Cambodian students

by Margaret Stewart - Copy Editor
Wed, Feb 20th 2019 03:00 pm

The College at Brockport is home to a variety of diverse clubs ranging across all different interests. Many are subject based like the Society for Professional Journalism, while others are service based such as Habitat for Humanity. 

The Biology Honors Club managed to merge its subject specific requirements with a service component. According to myBROCKPORT, the purpose of the club is to give students the opportunity to work alongside faculty on research-based projects in order to give them more in-field experience. A large part of the club is the “real life” experience that will make a “significant difference in our world.” 

The clubs ideals became a reality for then Vice President Jenna Baer. Currently serving as the club’s president, Baer was conducting research with Huey Hing, Ph.D, when Baer learned of Hing’s plan to travel to a Cambodian school during the winter break of 2019.

“He was planning on going to a school in Cambodia to help teach a classroom,” Baer wrote.

Cambodian schools suffer from an educational deficit partially caused by a lack in advanced technology that classrooms in the United States are equipped with every day. Hing and Baer worked to help bridge the gap.

It was at this point that Hing mentioned Foldscopes, which are microscopes made out of paper, and decided to bring them with him to Cambodia. Costing approximately $4 each, the Foldscopes provided an economical solution to an educational problem.

“The village is extremely destitute,” Hing said. “With no basic resources.” 

The village Hing referred to is Prek Toal, a small, floating village in Cambodia. Hing explained that though there are very little educational resources for the students and teachers, both groups are very eager to learn.

“There are some students here who don’t even take our microscopes out of the cabinet,” Hing said. “We take things for granted. But there, the energy was amazing.”

The Cambodian students fought to take turns with the scopes, pointing them at everything they could find, collecting pond water and flowers to examine under the scopes. A teacher even pricked their finger so the students were able to examine a drop of blood under the microscope.

 

Not only did Hing bring over about 25 Foldscopes, the Biology Honors Club’s former president, Peter Giangrasso, said the club doubled its anticipated financial goal by fundraising in the Seymour Union.

“We raised $120,” Giangrasso said. “We were able to purchase a battery powered Natural Elementary Compound Microscope which is perfect for beginners.”

Under Giangrasso, the project took on a life of its own. The project became a collaborative event under four different clubs. Giangrasso reached out to past presidents of Brockport Swing Dance Club, Sophie Nash, Asian Club, Jong Min Lee, and Foreign Language Club, Mikhaila Schweikowsky, in order to get more tabling events and fundraise more money.

All of their hard work and team effort showed when Hing finally hand delivered the scopes to the Cambodian school this past January. Members of each club surprised the students with individual messages.

“Members of all of the clubs put together microscopes and left notes for each student in each microscope,” Hing said. 

The hope is that this program will only grow in the future. 

“The prior semester we [the Biology Honors Club] were considered inactive through BSG [Brockport Student Government],” Giangrosso said. “Now that we’re active, the budget could increase up to $4,000.”

Some items that the club wants to bring over in the future include triple beam balances, glassware and more microscopes and Foldscopes. Hing is continually working to establish a relationship with not only the teachers on Prek Toal, but others around Cambodia. 

“Teachers asked if we’d come back,” Hing said. “We need something sustainable in order to transfer knowledge and our students are excited to do service.”

Hing is currently working alongside the director of Community Development in order to grow their program. The goal is to have the students be the ones who deliver the materials in the future. 

 This Brockport led program was possible due to Butterfly Pea, a program founded by John Ganshaw. Ganshaw created the financial foundation specifically for Prek Toal. 

 

mstew7@brockport.edu | @margotpolo96