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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Harkin to award winner: 'We look forward to hearing what great things you do in the future'

At the beginning of the meeting, Dundee Highlands Elementary Principal Doug Cory introduced 12 children who had been identified as student leaders by their teachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The students were as follows: Robert and Benjamin (kindergarten), Aubrey and TJ (first grade), Mia and Nora (second grade), Orla and Natalie (third grade), Lily and Henry (fourth grade), and Juliana and Bennet (fifth grade).

The board later honored its latest student winner of an award from the Blue Ribbon Society, which is an organization that honors individuals who honor District 300's goal of empowering and properly equipping all students. The latest winner was Hampshire High School senior Samantha Alvarez, who recently received top honors at the 2022 Future Farmers of America Agro-Science Fair. She has also been working in the regional science area of her school's veterinary program since her sophomore year, and she explained her award-winning genetic research project to the board. District Superintendent Susan Harkin shared her amazement at the work that Alvarez had been doing in agricultural and genetic research. While Alvarez is currently unsure of where she'll go to college, she plans to continue her research projects wherever she goes.

"As part of the Veterinary Science program, you are required to be involved in the FFA," Alvarez said. "I started this in my sophomore year, and since then, I've participated in several different career development events as well as a research project that I did during this time. My project aimed to address a significant problem in our world today, and that is invasive species and crop pests. So two summers ago, I took a summer immersion program at the University of Chicago where we learned a lot about genetic techniques. And one of the projects that we looked at was this study that they did in Florida, where they genetically modified mosquitoes and released them into the environment in order to control the species. So I took this idea and tried to address a problem and more of our local community, which was the emerald ash borer beetle. I wanted to mediate the spread of these invasive species by targeting them through a nontraditional biopesticide genetically, and this would aim to kill them in a way that would not affect any other organisms."

"I believe last year I actually got to see her present on [one of her projects], and I was overly impressed at that point with how upstanding this is," Harkin said. "So great, and I got to hear firsthand her pride about a ten-minute presentation on how Samantha developed this and worked with the University of Chicago. So absolutely, even more amazing that you've got here. Your future is extremely bright. So congratulations on your accomplishments... we're so very proud of you and we look forward to hearing what great things you do in the future as well, too."

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