It’s graduation season, which means your social media timelines are about to be lit with parents celebrating their kids’ accomplishments. But for a group of 17 high school seniors from West Baltimore, this graduation year will be extra special. The students were the first cohort to participate in the UMB CURE Scholars Program, a STEM mentoring program through the University of Maryland-Baltimore.
The young people, who started the program in sixth grade, have overcome personal challenges, including food insecurity and gun violence in their community. And after years of hard work, the students who thought college wasn’t an option will graduate from high school with more than 140 college acceptances between them. UMB will honor their achievements at a special May 6 graduation ceremony.
The UMB CURE Scholars program was launched in 2015 in partnership with the National Cancer Institute to increase the number of BIPOC professionals in STEM and healthcare-related fields. According to a press release shared with The Root, students are matched with mentors who follow them through the program to ensure they have the resources and support they need.
Ayishat Yussuf, valedictorian of this year’s CURE Scholars class, says the program encouraged her to pursue a career as a pediatrician. After graduation, Yussuf is off to Spelman College as a Bonner Scholar, which provides her with a scholarship in exchange for a weekly service commitment with a local community organization. “The UMB CURE Scholars Program opened my eyes to numerous STEM careers. While meeting many scientists, engineers, and others throughout my middle school experience, my eyes focused on becoming a pediatrician and health care advocate. UMB CURE has inspired me to make it my goal in college to major in biology on a pre-med track,” she said.
Kat Coburn, an MD/Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who has been Ayishat’s mentor, sees a bright future for the student she’s been supporting for six years. “I hope that my mentorship has helped instill confidence within her that she is capable of whatever she sets her mind to. The next chapter of her academic career will be challenging, but she has the tools, hard work, and intellect to rise to the occasion. I’m very excited for her!” she said.
The UMB ceremony will also be featured in a five-part local documentary series, called From West Baltimore. The series has followed five of the students since they began the program. You can cheer on the inaugural cohort of UMB CURE scholars from home by watching a live stream of their graduation ceremony on Friday, May 6, at 5:30 pm ET.