I attended SSP at the California campus this summer (2012), and had the experience of a lifetime. My experience there was defined as much by the amazing people I shared those 5 and a half weeks with, as it was by the intense exposure to Astronomy, Physics and Maths. Words truely cannot do this program justice. It only takes a glance to see that alumni from 3-4 decades ago are taking the time year after year to support SSP, all maintaining that the Summer Science Program was one of the most life-changing 5 weeks of their lives.
An incredible group of people with a passion for learning - I feel lucky to have SSP in my life!
6 week of intense learning and fun - can't describe how close I got with my teammates and all 23 other campers as we spent days in amazing classes and on field trips, and evenings at the telescope and in the developing room. It was such a great experience that I returned as a TA and created more great memories - SSP is the best!
I went to this program over fifty years ago and it was a defining experience for me then and all through college. My son was the first second generation participant, and I hope my grandson will be a third generation participant. It is a fabulous experience. I have participated in running the program with the most dedicated group of volunteers I have ever had the honor to work with.
I attended SSP in 1979 and it gave me the tools needed to become successful in STEM. What most impresses me about SSP is the consistent success and high quality of the program year after year and the impact that it has on the lives of high school students. This is reflected by the fact that 80% of its graduates complete a degree in STEM and that its alumni are fully invested and dedicated to running and preserving the program in order to make sure more students have the SSP opportunity. It is a "no brainer" for me to have SSP at the top of my list of charities to which I contribute and volunteer my time each year .
I attended SSP in 1978, and it changed my life. I came from a small town / small public high school, but my experience att SSP gave me the confidence to attend a top university and pursue a challenging career. I am proud to have the opportunity to give back to this outstanding organization through service on its Board of Trustees.
SSP continues to provide an unequaled program for exceptional science students. For 54 straight years, students have gotten a taste of doing real science, working in collaborative teams guided by scientists, forming life-long relationships. I was a student 35 years ago, and I still feel the effects that this program has had on my life. I volunteer on the Board and on committees because I want to give back to the program some of what it gave to me. I am rewarded by seeing 72 students thrilled each year by this amazing experience and by seeing all of the alumni rallying around this program to keep it going. The program is entirely run by the past students and faculty, who become members of the organization upon completion of the program. The alumni also provide the bulk of the funding, which really speaks to the success SSP has in changing lives.
How do we raise the next generation of leaders in science and technology? It is important to have the general population informed about issues related to science, but we also need top people to form the foundation of our science program. The latter is the focus of SSP. Why help top students? Doesn't their raw intelligence give them all they need to succeed? SSP was founded in the days of Sputnik. The SSP founders had the wisdom to see that we needed the best technology to succeed in the new world, and that would take top scientists. That is still true today. I remember my first day as a student at SSP. I'd never been away from home. I'd never been challenged by being surrounded by so many extraordinary people. My father had recently been hospitalized, which was an emotional strain on me as well as a financial one on my family. I was terrified. SSP covered my tuition, as it has done with so many others year after year. That was the first of many hurdles SSP helped me get over. SSP made me feel at home. From the legendary Dr. Abell (known among many other things for the Abell catalog of galaxies), to Dr. Pierce (still a dear friend and colleague on the SSP board), to the TAs, to all of the other students. This was an amazing family I joined that day. I remember struggling on a primitive calculator (I had a TI-58, rather advanced for the day) to complete my orbit calculation. One at a time, my teammates and I reached the same conclusion, an inside-out orbit that made no sense. We ended up discovering that one observation was bad. Throwing that out and sharing data with colleagues (another team having similar problems), we eventually got a good orbit and demonstrated the problem with the original measurements. That was a great lesson on the difficulties of real science. I remember Dr. Abell encouraging everyone to play softball. What a pleasure it was to be involved in sports and not feel like the out-of-place geek that nobody wanted on their team. I remember late nights at the telescopes and late nights talking to my fellow students. It was not always easy to tell what was work and what was play. I remember listening to lectures and chatting over dinner with fabulous guest speakers like the Amazing Randi (famous magician and scientific skeptic) and Maarten Schmidt (who figured out the spectra of quasars). Ultimately, I feel certain that SSP helped me get into the best college for me (Caltech). It helped prepare me for what I needed to do to succeed at Caltech. Then being at Caltech helped me get opportunities and succeed throughout my career. It is impossible to know where I'd be without SSP, but I have no doubt that it changed my entire life. This is why we need SSP. We need to identify top students and help get them past the challenges they face, so they can reach their full potential. It costs a lot to run SSP, hiring college professors, TAs, and other staff; providing for room and board for the students and faculty; paying for guest speakers to travel to our sites; and keeping equipment functioning and up-to-date. Tuition is kept quite affordable, and financial aid is generous for those who need it. SSP leverages volunteers who perform a large fraction of the tasks such as the curriculum committee, the admissions committee, and the board; but that still leaves a lot we have to pay for. Please help any way you can.
I attended SSP over 30 years ago, and it was one of the most important experiences of my life. I attended a small, rural high school and had never had the opportunity to learn from science professionals and work with other top students. My experience at SSP encouraged me to go on to a top college and continue to challenge myself. I am happy to continue to give back to the program and support the next generation to have the same great experience that I did.