While some high school students may have plans for a fun-filled beach get-away this summer, there is one student who is heading to the beach for a completely different reason.
Blaise Herman, a sophomore at Leeds High School, has been accepted as one of only 60 students from across the nation to attend the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Discovery Hall program. As a participant of the Marine Science program, Herman will be involved in an intense academic program introducing her to the marine environment through classroom lecture, laboratory and field activities.
It was Herman’s grandmother who first mentioned the program.
“My grandmother knows about my passion for marine biology and she knows somebody involved with the program and told me about it. From there, I went online,” Blaise said.
“She was looking at the website and was drooling over the whole idea,” added her mother, Sheila Herman.
Herman credits her father’s love of the outdoors for her passion for nature.
“He taught me a lot about fish and would take me to the aquariums. I became very drawn to it,” Blaise said.
In order to attend the Sea Lab programs, a student must first apply, write an essay, provide transcripts, and have a letter of recommendation provided by a teacher. When Blaise mentioned to LHS science teacher Bryan Swift that she was interested, he was quick to support her, not only as her teacher, but a graduate of the program himself.
“The irony is that I’m actually not her science teacher,” Swift said. “But, I have gotten to know her very well. She is the vice-president of the Eco Mad Scientist Club and has been to every meeting. She works in the courtyard and outside planting trees and working on the pond.”
Swift pointed out that Blaise is the first student in over 10 years to be accepted to the program. Swift, during his time as a student at LHS, attended Sea Lab 22 years ago.
“I always know our ecological program would bear fruit academically. She is proof that I was right,” Swift added.
The course will provide Blaise with an accredited high school science course. The length of the course is four weeks, during which time the students live on campus and participate in over 150 hours of supervised academic activities. Classes are taught in an academic setting and are designed to give the student a better understanding and appreciation of the various fields in marine science.
The course is not a cheap one. It will cost the Hermans $2,050, which includes tuition, room and board. She has applied for a scholarship, but is primarily looking to raise the funds on her own. Already, the Leeds Optimist Club has stepped up, presenting Blaise with $500 last week.
An account has been set up for Blaise at the high school and anyone wishing to give a tax-deductible donation can drop off a check with “Blaise Herman” on the memo line.
“I know it is a blessing to have people willing to support me along the way,” Blaise said. “I will make sure their money is well spent.”
According to Swift, once on campus, Blaise will be put to the test.
“This isn’t going to be a trip to the beach for a month,” he said. “She will be in class at 8 a.m. and will stay busy until she goes to bed. They are squeezing an 18-week course into four weeks. It is very intense and very hands-on. It will be like nothing she has seen before.”
One of Blaise’s goals in attending the program is to learn more about possible careers in marine biology.
“I have certainly thought about marine biology as a career. This experience might help me to decide if it is what I truly want to do,” she said.
Blaise is the daughter of Sheila and Eric Herman. She has a brother, Beck. Her adventure at Sea Lab will be June 19-July 15. Anyone wishing to make a donation may contact LHS at 205-699-4510.