Welcome to Seattle MESA’s Saturday Academy Newsletter! In this premiere issue, we will look at the MESA program, Saturday Academy, and the highlights of our November Kick Off. Stay tuned for upcoming special events.

Who are we, and what we do?

Seattle MESA is a non-profit organization that seeks to increase participation of underserved and underrepresented minority students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) academic and professional fields.

The Saturday Academy is a once-monthly all day science enrichment program that exposes students to STEM via project-based activities, field trips, guest speakers, and laboratory experiences. Career and academic skill-building underline the program to help students prepare for life after high school.

In case you missed it:

The Intro to Marine Biology Section is led by Dr. Thomas Pool, a second year Saturday Academy instructor, who also teaches marine biology at UW and Seattle University. On the first day, the Intro section learned about and built (yes, built!) barnacles, listened to marine mammals’ greatest hit songs, saw two headstands from Thomas and myself, had a guest speaker from UW Student Activities Office, Phil Hunt, and ended with a lesson on watersheds.

The Advanced Marine Biology section is led by Dr. Kristi Straus, the original Saturday Academy Instructor and UW professor of Marine Biology. On day one the Advanced group got up-close and personal with marine organisms, recorded key phenotypic traits of these critters, received a guest lecture from a UW Minority Student Recruiter, Patrick Okocha, and ended with headstands of their own while they presented to their peers after some partnered research about super-powered marine invertebrates (the Mantis Shrimp is still my favorite).

Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Wheat may be our newest Saturday Academy instructor, but she is a veteran in the world of food science. Owning her own farm and having started the UW farm, Beth is no stranger to locally sourced food. Right out of the gate, the Food Science section went for a walk along the Burke-Gilman Trail, collecting soil samples, visiting student-run farms, campus Greenhouses, and analyzing plots of soil for physical properties native to the area.

Getting Up Close and Personal with Marine Invertebrates… Starfish Anyone?

Volunteers: Spotlight on the Backbone of our Program

Volunteers are an integral component of our program. They are the reason we can serve as many students as we do. But contrary to any misconceptions, volunteers enjoy as much of the experience as the students do. But don’t take my word for it, here are some testimonials from our volunteers:

“We had a great experience at the Saturday Academy last month.  I brought my daughter to help too.  Even though we were there to help, we also got the benefit of learning what the students were learning.  The instructors are very enthusiastic and excited about the programs.  I believe that was contagious and it definitely helped with keeping the kids engaged.  I also thought it was really cool that at least one of the volunteers was a student who participated in the MESA program several years ago.”

-Dale Sieg

“Being a student at UW who was also a part of MESA, it was great to come back and see how much the program has changed. I also got to learn about food science and it was nice to see how engaged the students were. After lunch in the auditorium, I was able to answer many of the students’ questions about college. It brought memories back from high school and it reminded me of how much I wanted to come to UW. I hope to keep on being that person that kids can look up to and go to for advice.”

-Tim Iwuoha

“On my way to volunteer with MESA for the first time, I was worried that it would be hard for students to have fun in a classroom on a Saturday. But, I was wrong! The teachers were enthusiastic and entertaining, and their passion for the subject matter was contagious. Time flew because I was having so much fun learning alongside the students.”

-Natalie Lowell

“It was great to volunteer with Seattle MESA and help students explore science in an interactive and fun way. In just one session, I could see students start to open up, ask questions and express interest in scientific topics they didn’t even know they were interested in before. By the end of the day, I had several students tell me that marine invertebrates are cool! I very much enjoyed mentoring the students, not only answering academic questions but also questions about life after high school in general. I am looking forward to watching these students progress throughout the year!”

-Sasha Seroy

Special mention to Phil Hunt and Patrick Okocha, our guest speakers and our fantastic Volunteers!


Sasha Seroy and Brad Gibson

From career advice to life stories to college prep, our volunteers fill many mentorship roles. With such a wide spectrum of life experiences, our volunteers are able to connect to students on a variety of levels.

Fast Facts


Volunteer capacity from Day 1.Expected to increase to 65%. Our goal is to reach 20 volunteers each session.


Student capacity from Day 1. Expected to increase to 75%. Our goal is to reach 90 students each session.

Here are the remaining Saturday Academy sessions for 2016:

January 16th

February 6th and February 27th

March 12th

April 2nd and April 30th

Upcoming Field Trips (subject to change):

January 16th

Food Science trip to Woodland Park Zoo. Animal dietary maintenance.

February 27th

Food Science trip to Continental Mills Food Research and Design Plant.

Advanced Marine Biology trip to Seattle Aquarium.

March 12th

Intro to Marine Biology Ocean Inquiry Project (OIP), Puget Sound research boat trip.

Advanced Marine Biology local field trip studying Sea Birds

April 2nd

Advanced Marine Biology Salish Sea Research boat trip

Seattle MESA wishes you a very safe, warm, and happy holiday season. We are sending a HUGE THANK YOU for all of your energy so far. See you all next year!


Know someone interested in volunteering? Have them contact:
Brian Tracey, Program Coordinator