Call the main number for Ossining High, and you’ll be asked whether you’d like to continue in English or Spanish. No matter what the primary language of a new student in this ethnically diverse school (about 45 percent Hispanic, 30 percent white, and nearly 20 percent African American), he or she soon learns that “science” is just another word for “success.”
In 2011, Ossining boasted eight semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, the most prestigious high school science contest in the nation. The only school in America to match that number that year was the renowned Bronx High School of Science; in fact, “it was more than most states produced in total,” says Chris Olson, assistant principal and head of the Science, Math, and World Language Departments, proudly. In 2012, Intel named Ossining the Star Innovator out of 18 Schools of Distinction across the US, presenting it with $100,000 in cash and prizes, including equipment.
The roots of this astonishing victory can be traced to Ossining’s innovative curriculum, Olson says, especially its Fundamentals of Science Research program. Founded in 1999, this special class lets students research college- and grad-school-worthy subjects over the course of three years, then present their findings at numerous scientific gatherings and competitions. It’s this targeted, long-term planning that’s produced reports like “Development and Function of Extrathymic T-Cells in Athymic Bone Marrow Transplantation Recipients,” the title of one Intel semifinalist’s submission.
That semifinalist, by the way, was female, and the president and VP of the school’s Engineering Club are both girls. Ossining is doing its part to combat the under-representation of women in the sciences.
Still, Olson says, “what you have to realize, for all these nice awards, is that it all starts with our core curriculum and our dedicated teachers. It’s them, and our diverse student body, that results in a wonderful academic program.”