Summer Student Spotlight

Although summer break was not nearly as long as ones in years past, students filled their time with valuable camps and internships.

Grace Ketler

Grace & Dad
Grace Ketler (12) poses for a picture with her father before attending her internship. (Ketler)

Q: Where did you complete your summer internship?

A: I completed my internship at the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside, PA. 

Q: What did your day to day experience look like?

A: My day to day experience consisted of four days a week going in-person to a Hillman Cancer Center research lab and working with a mentor from 9-4. I had my own research project/ topic, which was called “Interrogating B Cell Function in the Ascites of Patients with High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer.” 

Q: What did you learn from your experience?

A: I learned an abundance of information this summer. I learned new skills, facts, and research techniques. I also learned what a career in the cancer research field looks like, along with learning the importance of working with others. 

Q: How will you apply your new experience and skills in the future?

A: I will apply the skills I learned, from the technical skills I learned to the life lessons I learned such as the importance of patience, how to speak to different audiences, and believing in your work, throughout my daily life.

Grace & Sophia
Seniors Grace Ketler and Sophia Alvarez pose for a picture in front of the Shadyside Medical Building. (Ketler)

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give someone who wants to follow the same path as you?

A: A piece of advice I would give to someone who wants to follow the path I took is do not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, and focus on the big picture. Although you will give up some free time and activities, you will have a huge reward at the end of the summer by going through an experience such as this one.







Jack Chaney

Jack Chaney, 12, in front of the Washington Monument at Boys’ Nation.

Q: What program did you do?

A: I attended Keystone Boys’ State and was selected later in the experience to be one of two Senators from Pennsylvania attending American Legion Boys Nation

Q: What did your typical day consist of?

A:The typical day at Boys’ Nation involved waking up and going to Breakfast, which was around 7. Then, the Senators would go to morning formation and raise the flag. I would be up earlier, as I was part of the honor guard responsible for raising the flag. We would spend the majority of the day working in the Senate Chambers in committee or as a whole, working with different bills submitted by other Boys’ Nation Senators. In the afternoons and evenings, we would go and visit different places in D.C., including Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Capitol Hill, and the White House, along with the National Mall and other monuments. There was a heavy emphasis on civic responsibility and Constitutional Philosophy; the question “what is best for the future of the Nation?” was constantly pressed upon our minds.

Q. What’s the coolest experience you had?

A: At Boys Nation, I got to tour the White House, meet an Army Major General, and go inside the Capitol, along with meeting numerous veterans and other important people

Q: What have you learned from this experience?
A: I learned the importance of taking responsibility for civic issues as a citizen and the inner workings of government at both the state and federal levels, as well as discovered a lot about what I truly believe in.
Q: What advice would you give to students interested in attending this program?
A: Make the most of it. Every year about 20,000 boys nationwide attend Boys’ State and the experience is indispensable. As a Boys’ Nation Senator, being one of only 98 of those 20,000 selected to move on to the national level of the program was the biggest honor that has ever been bestowed upon me, so giving the whole thing my all was the least I could do.

Sophia Internship
Sophia Alvarez (12) completes an experiment during her internship. (Sophia Alvarez)

Sophia Alvarez

Q: Where did you complete your summer internship?

A: I completed my internship at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Biotechnology and Bioengineering. 

Q: What did your day to day experience look like?

A: Honestly, most of my day to day work included redoing my experiments and trying to optimize them because there were a lot of issues and failures with them. Usually everyday I was splitting cells, making microfluidic devices to watch the cells interact, and imaging the devices.

Q: What did you learn from your experience?

A: I don’t even know where to start. I learned so many valuable lessons and information that I could give a whole 40 minute talk on it. But, overall, I learned a lot of really interesting things about the specifics of Ovarian Cancer and how it is able to spread through the body. I gained a lot of insight on biology in general and it helped me to piece things together from the stuff I learned in freshman bio. I learned how to conduct research, deal with failure, career paths into the medical field, how to build connections, and many other things as well.


Q: How will you apply your new experience and skills in the future?

A: My experience has already started to shape my future as I have been able to apply it to daily life. I have already seen the effects in AP Biology and Principles of Biomedical Science as I fully understand everything that has been talked about in class, and even had connections to scenarios that they talked about because I was actually able to perform them. It will give me an edge on college when I come in with a strong foundation in the area I want to study.

Sophia & Brother
Sophia Alvarez (12) poses with her younger brother Franco (11) in front of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Biotechnology & Bioengineering. (Alvarez)


Q: What is one piece of advice you would give someone who wants to follow the same path as you?

A: I would say definitely pursue an internship or shadowing to help you see what that occupation or career field is like. Working in a lab even showed me that I don’t particularly enjoy being in the lab all day, so I will probably pursue the clinical side rather than the research. It can really help you to decide what you truly want to do in life rather than wasting time and money later, bouncing around because you never knew what your career was like and it turns out not to be what you think.


Nicholas Cormas

Nicholas Cormas (12) attended Boys State at Shippensburg University. (Angela Cormas)

Q: What program did you do?

A: I received an American Legion scholarship to participate in the Boys State civic leadership program at Shippensburg University during the summer. Boys State is a simulation of state government where the students run for elected positions on the City, County, and State levels.


Q: What’s the coolest experience you had?

A: The most exciting part of Boys State was definitely the day trip to Harrisburg. Halfway into the program, we were bused to the State Capitol building and spent the day there. I met with a lot of our state and county representatives and saw the beautiful architecture. It was really amazing to observe the political process in action; the highlight of the day was going into the ornate State Senate room and sitting in the politician’s seats.

Q: What have you learned from this experience?

A: From Boys State, I learned a lot about bi-partisan leadership. I was elected to the positions of Speaker of the House and Chief Supreme Court Justice. As Speaker of the House, I facilitated a legislature of about 90 students, and through that, I had to remain extremely neutral and encourage fair and compassionate debate. Serving as Chief Supreme Court Justice was a ton of fun, and I learned a lot about law in general since I had to pass the mock BAR exam to gain the position. I was a finalist in the selection process to go to Boys Nation due to both my demonstrated leadership skills and level of involvement with the program.

Nicholas Cormas (12) poses with fellow mock Supreme Court judges at Boys State.

Q:What advice would you give to students interested in attending this program?

A: For those even remotely interested in becoming a better leader I absolutely recommend applying for the next scholarship. The counselors at Boys State call it “a week that shapes a lifetime” and that is 100% true. I met motivated student leaders across the state that I still keep in touch with, and running for positions and serving is super fun. You learn a lot about time management and collaboration; you will be exposed to many diverse viewpoints that will in some way change the way you view the world. It is an amazing week, and it also boosts your college application since it is a nationally recognized program! If you end up going to Boys/Girls State, do not be afraid to jump headfirst into the opportunities the program presents.