Sean Polaneo, an 11-year-old Broughal Middle School student, is eager to answer questions during Livin' La Vida Lehigh. As a result of coronavirus, Broughal Middle School, has been closed until April 6. (Molly Brooks/B&W Staff)

Middle schoolers experience Lehigh life through CSO program


Sixteen Broughal Middle School students made their way up the hill to Lehigh’s campus Nov. 8 for a Community Service Office event entitled “Livin’ la Vida Lehigh.” The event allowed the students to experience what a day of attending Lehigh is like, featuring everything from going to a chemistry class to eating lunch at Rathbone Hall.

From 9:30  a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the sixth- and seventh-grade students’ schedules were filled with events.

“Livin’ la Vida Lehigh,” an annual event, was revamped two years ago by students working with the Community Service Office to provide Broughal Middle School students with a more exciting and memorable day. The event, prior to the revamp, lacked in participation.

In order to attract more students this year, the Community Service Office created a commercial to excite middle schoolers about attending Lehigh for a day.

A member of the Community Service Office, Gabrielle Dardis, ’17, said they hoped “to get (the students) more interested in college and motivate them to set goals for their future.”

The first stop on the students’ schedules was a chemistry class led by professor Keith Schray and Michael Kerner, ’15, who is a pharmaceutical chemistry major. They taught the visiting students chemistry by conducting an involved demonstration.

Kerner said he was happy to help Schray conduct experiments with the students. He also said that while demonstrating, he saw a lot of enthusiasm for learning from the students watching.

“How do car engines make cars move?” Schray asked the students after showing them a video about race cars. In order to show exactly how this was done, Kerner said he could recreate the same chemical reaction that allowed a car to move. To do this, a polyethylene bottle was used containing two nails through the sides. Then methanol was poured into the bottle and a rubber stopper was fit to close the bottle. After shaking and securing the bottle in place, it was lit and the increased pressure caused the stopper to blow off of the bottle and shoot up into the air and across the room making a huge popping sound.

The students cheered in excitement and were intrigued by this experiment. Schray said it is that same chemical reaction that allows cars to move and that when watching race cars, it’s the same loud sound that is heard. The students were impressed by the loud and spontaneous reaction. They asked question after question and wanted to see the demonstration again.

“I liked seeing the electricity inside of the bottle and watching the stopper shoot across the room,” sixth grader Jorge Bello said. “I want to go to Lehigh University and study technology when I’m older.”

Gejnique Thomas, a seventh grader from Broughal said he enjoyed his day at Lehigh, as well.

“I definitely want to go to college and study forensics,” he said. “My favorite part of the day was in the science room.”

After leaving the chemistry experiment portion of the day, the students headed to Rathbone to enjoy a college-inspired lunch. Sixth grader Josue Ferrer expressed his excitement for lunch by saying it was what he was looking forward to the most.

Student volunteer Rebecca Christal, ’15, said she enjoyed working with the kids during the event.

“It was a good opportunity to help friends who organized the event as well as give back to the Bethlehem community,” she said. “The kids seem to be really involved and excited to continue learning throughout the day.”

The day continued with a tour of Lower Cents dormitory, followed by a tour of Rauch Business Center. After that the students participated in team building activities, college planning activities and a group discussion.

The day ended with a scavenger hunt in Linderman Library before the students filled out evaluations and traveled back to Broughal Middle School.

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