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WVU-P hosts CSI Teen Academy with all-female class

Participants in the CSI Teen Academy at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. Back row, from left, Olivia Whaley, Program Coordinator Andrew Walker, alumni Nathan Settle, WVU-P President Chris Gilmer, instructor Amy Strong, Madi Gainer, Julia Crone, Grace Sprout and Emily Sendling. Front row, Rayelee Chambers, Whitney Ferrebee, Emma Cross and Sophie Seckman. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — The Teen Academy at West Virginia University at Parkersburg immerses youth in real-world, hands-on education in a subject of which they are interested and helps them choose a career.

“Teen Academies are designed to be self-discovery. There’s often been pressure that teens are expected to have a concrete idea of their career. But, there’s often little room to explore and truly understand a degree and career path without the potential of major setbacks, wasted time, and money,” Program Coordinator Logan Mace said.

The Teen Academy features different career exploration opportunities. However, the students in the CSI Teen Academy are hallmarked by the characteristic of all being young women interested in the field.

The CSI Teen Academy allowed students to walk through a crime scene on the first day to see what it might actually look like if they entered the field. In addition, the program featured forensic entomology where the instructors put a chicken outside and let it collect fly evidence. In a couple days, they experienced maggot activity and Criminal Justice Program Coordinator Andrew Walker was pleased that each student went outside to investigate it despite the smell.

“We put it on to break down the myths and find the realities of CSI, police work and solving crimes. We were fortunate to have nine very bright young ladies who came into the criminal justice class — a field that’s dominated, typically in the policing area, by men,” Walker said. “So it’s nice to see young women interested in the field and interested in criminal justice. They all have an interest in crime scene work, police work, and criminal justice in general so it’s really cool to get them here, get them thinking about college and seeing what it is we do in our classes to give them that hands-on learning experience.”

Emma Cross examines evidence in the CSI Teen Academy at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. (Photo Provided)

Emma Cross, a freshman at Liberty High School in Clarksburg and participant in the Teen Academy, enjoyed the capstone experience. It let the students understand what it’s like to work in the field through the experiential learning opportunities that Walker presented to them, she said.

Walker’s goal was to break down the barriers between the students and what college could be for them by allowing them to interact with college instructors in a college setting.

“I really like setting up the crime scene, like getting it all together was fun,” Cross said. “I learned how different behavior could affect how someone commits a crime. After this, I definitely want to go into criminal justice.”

The summer academies for teens give high school students a taste of college early, but this year’s academy is especially meaningful because all nine participants are young women studying in a field that was not always a welcoming career field for women, WVU-P President Chris Gilmer said.

“Of course, we support all of our students and are proud of them regardless of their personal traits, but I am gratified to see this generation of young women breaking down unfair barriers that might have held their mothers or grandmothers back in their professions,” he said. “Also, I am very proud for WVU-P to be a leader in breaking down those barriers.”

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