juniors in action Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute: A Parent & Community Newsletter

a note from the Douglis'

Volume 2 Issue 3

Having had the opportunity to observe the Carlmont Biotech Institute for the past five years as parents, we have witnessed first-hand what an incredible and dynamic program has been created for the students. Having an opportunity at a school of more than 2,200 to be part of a small learning community, which encourages collaboration, research, and teamwork, is the best possible introduction to the future rigors of college.

The Biotech Institute has afforded both my children the chance to indulge their passion for science, while also introducing them to numerous possible career pathways. They have the opportunity daily to engage with like-minded students, committed teachers, and respected leaders within the science and biotechnology communities.

The effort and energy of the teachers to provide consistent daily stimulation and encouragement, coupled with extensive content enrichment, via field trips, mentorship opportunities, group projects, symposiums, and guest lectures make the program truly one-of- a-kind within the Carlmont ecosystem. The intimacy of the Institute has allowed the students to forge deep friendships that have transcended the classroom and have continued beyond graduation.

The Institute has also created numerous opportunities for parents to form meaningful relationships as well. BTI has various mix and mingle events during the year and encourages parents to take an active roll in their student's endeavors and projects.

Having had one child already complete the three-year program, it is now abundantly clear that his participation played the most critical part in determining his ultimate collegiate destination and for that, we are eternally grateful to everyone connected to the Carlmont BTI.

- Michael Douglis and Jennifer Douglis, Parents of 2018 BTI graduate and current 2021 BTI student

It's the season of gratitude

As the first semester comes to a close and we take the next few minutes reading through this newsletter that features the BTI Junior Class of 2021, we are once again reminded of how extraordinary Carlmont's Biotechnology college-prep program is and how fortunate our teens are to be able to partake in a ground-breaking, cross-curicular approach of learning to better prepare for our changing world. Let's also be reminded that without the dedication and effort of these amazing teachers as well as the support of our administration, Superintendent Mary Streshly, Principal Ralph Crame, Counselor Ms. Miller and Director of Mentoring and Career Services Faith Velschow, we would not have this amazing program. So let's take a moment to appreciate the extra effort that all involved make on in order to make this program so successful. Thank you.

We need your support

To that end, in order to continue this specialized science-centric program, it requires additional funding of $200,000 per year to fund the small dedicated class sizes with specialized curriculum, equipment and supplies, programs and events with industry professionals, and enriching trips to science discovery centers/museums and biotech companies. By meeting this goal, next year BTI will be able to pay for two dedicated Biotech 3/4 classes with new equipment such as Verniere Lab Quests, pH probes and colorimeters. And in the spirit of gratitude, the members of the BTI Development Committee would like to extend our deepest THANKS to all of you who have donated to the BTI program. We are only $35,500 away from our annual goal. Thank you.

Funds Raised to Date

  • Sequoia School District: $75,000
  • Carl Perkins Grant: $46,800
  • Parent Donations through CAF to date: $ 26,112.50
  • Corporate donations: Apple: $1,980, Checkpoint: $1,000, Nerdwallet: $500, Oracle: $7,500, Roche: $5,000, Salesforce Foundation: $540 = $16,520

We are lucky to be partnered with CAF to facilitate our ability to raise additional funds tied to the specific expenses associated with a unique program like BTI. It is only by building upon the strong foundation that CAF provides that we can offer this specialized college-prep program. Thank you CAF for your ongoing support! And finally, thank you parents for your ongoing support of this program. It truly does take a village!

Calling all parents who work at a biotech co.

This year we are looking to do a bit of cross-pollination in our programing. As you may know by now, each class visits a biotech company sometime during the year. This year we are looking to set up a trip to a biotech company for the sophomore class. We are also looking to add a few parents who work at a biotech company to the Development Committee that meets once a month, especially if you are a sophomore parent. However, all parents are welcome to join the development committee. It's a great group that provides additional support to the co-directors of BTI, Ms. Gold and Ms. Abdilla to help in their efforts to ensure the BTI program continues to thrive. If you are able to help in either area, please contact Ms. Gold at sgold@seq.org or Faith Velschow at fvelschow@seq.org, 650-591-7502.

Juniors Hit the ground running

Biotechnology 3/4 - Ms. Abdilla

Armed with superior labs skills developed last year in Biotech 1/2, BTI Juniors jumped right into this years advanced Biotechnology 3/4 labs. The first semester is all about plant biotechnology. Students learned to clone plants using three different techniques. What? Crazy right? Because our classroom lacks "real" birds and bees needed for pollination, the students made pollination happen with their own lab-made "bee butts." Then they learned how to clone plants using leaf and stem cutting (asexual reproduction), and finally determined the best concentration of rooting hormone to clone coleus. Finally, our BTI juniors wrote, directed, and starred in their own "how-to" videos to teach first-year biotechnology students the many skill they learned last year.

The second semester is all about the cross-curricular project where students will create their own environmentally-friendly cleaning product and present a sales pitch (with supporting data) during Open House. I can hardly wait!

Asexual Plant Lab

Bees Butts and pollination

Hormone Lab

English 3 - Ms.Gold

Earlier this fall, my juniors read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which examines the motivations and ethical challenges of a scientist. This culminated in two mock trials—one for Victor Frankenstein, and the other for his monster. We have also more recently explored the ethical issues related to direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits used for researching ancestry and genetic health. Students are currently working on a creative project which they can contribute to their family history.

Students will kick off the spring semester by working on resumes, which they will use in mock interviews at the district's Career Day in April. They will also critically examine television commercials, magazine ads, and marketing materials, which will prepare them to create an ad campaign for an environmentally-friendly household cleaner, which they will create in their Biotechnology 3-4 class. This spring the juniors will also read Margaret Atwood's, Oryx and Crake, a post-apocalyptic novel where biotechnology has been used as a weapon.

US History - Ms. Moynahan

In addition, to learning all about US History, with a special emphasis on how technology and innovation is a part of our history, BTI juniors work on many of the mentor activities in the US History class. Recently, the Juniors interviewed their mentors over the phone to identify a "Pearl of Wisdom," or piece of advice that has helped their mentors in their careers to be more successful or more fulfilling. The Juniors spent a class period presenting about their mentors to their peers to share what they learned from their interviews as well as practice their public/professional speaking. The purpose of this is for students to learn how to sell themselves (using their mentors as an example this time) in an "elevator pitch" style presentation that they can then utilize when they are networking or at a career fair or interviewing for a position. They did a fantastic job!

Chemistry for Biotechnology - Mr. Engberg

BTI Juniors are finishing up their chemistry of beverages project based learning task. Student groups have spent the last two months or so testing beverages, learning solution chemistry, and creating a beverage of their choice. Through this process students dove into a deeper understanding of solution chemistry, ionic and covalent compounds, calorimetry, chemical structure, and taste and smell. On Thursday, December 12th Juniors will share their beverages at the BTI beverage showcase Junior students shared taste samples of the beverage and a poster including a nutritional facts label, chemical structures, and drink analysis. Sophomore students will evaluate and rank the beverages and posters. Next semester they will try their hands on soap making. Juniors really enjoy the interesting chemical demonstrations and labs they do in chemistry.

from the Junior perspective

What does the BTI Program mean to you?

  • Having the BTI program at Carlmont is a privilege. I feel that it provides a good opportunity for students more science oriented to feel welcomed in a society. It enhanced my understanding of biotech and science. - ANC
  • It is the opportunity I need to pursue my educational ambitions and learn as much as I can prior to being left to my own devices in my future. - AB
  • It means that I have an opportunity to learn and get experiences from real life and the biotech industry, which is going to help me when I'm looking for a job. It's a CTE subject so I also get a sense of how college works and what material is being taught. - TG
  • BTI gives us opportunities we’d never have otherwise. It is something that I think just enhances our high school experience and makes it a whole lot more enjoyable. It means that I have the freedom to express my academic interests and pursue them in a way that I think is very beneficial and meaningful. - EC
  • Its a fun program that helps me focus on one of my strong suits pertaining science and the discussions we have together are more meaningful because of how well we know each other. - RR
  • A safe community where you can make new friends and learn about the things you like. - DK
  • To me BTI means a little family and support system, where everyone knows each other and can give and receive advice from both mentors and students. - FBG
  • I value the BTI program a lot and the community that it has provided me with. Everyday I am surrounded by people that work hard and are committed to the program and I always look forward to my BTI classes. - NS

share one positive BTI community experience

  • I was able to connect with a different group of people within school that I wouldn’t be able to without BTI. BTI is my second family. - MS
  • Having the opportunity to study Frankenstein and collaborate with my classmates over a multitude of topics was an amazing opportunity provided by the BTI community. - AB
  • One positive experience was meeting my mentor. I got to learn what it is like to work as a scientist at biotech company. I am looking forward to learning more about my mentor's career and getting more valuable advice from my mentor. - JC
  • Doing the mentor breakfast was fun because I could find out about one other possible job opportunity that I would have fun with. - CK

Juniors meet their mentors

November 5, 2019

One of the highlights for our BTI juniors is the year-long mentorship program. Each junior is matched with a professional whose career they would like to explore. On November, 5th, we kicked off this program with the Mentor Breakfast, where students got acquainted with their mentors over bagels and coffee. Students and mentors have weekly contact until the beginning of May, and students will even get to shadow their mentors at work one day.

Mentors are often surprised by the positive impact the program has not only on the mentee, but on the mentor as well! We feel that the impact of this year-long program is significant. Mentors/Mentees communicate via email, text and in person; developing mentee communication skills and offering career exploration. Some of the key activities include:

  • January - SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Time-bound) goal development
  • February - Job Shadow
  • March - Career Fair
  • April - Check in and summer plan discussion
  • May - Final Mentor Event

We are grateful to Faith Velschow, Director of Mentors and Volunteers, and networker extraordinaire, for finding exceptional people to work with our juniors. To make sure the mentor/mentee relationships flourish, Faith provides training for all involved. She also frequently visits the classroom to give assignments, which encourage students to connect with their mentors and build their communication skills. BTI is so very fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated director. You go girl!

our fabulous mentors!

BTI Juniors and their mentors

California Academy of Science

September 24, 2019

Their Mission

to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth.

In the lab and in the field, scientists study the diversity and interconnectedness of life on Earth. From the green building to the breeding programs, sustainability is at the heart of everything they do. The Academy of Sciences offers teachers, students and the general public an opportunity to explore and learn of the good works they are doing. Growing the next generation of earth stewards can be considered a vital part of everyone's education and the understanding of science is an essential component.

Students visited the natural museum, where they learned about the role color plays in the natural world and observed African landscapes both plants and animals, including the adorable penguin display, but not before walking past an 87-foot blue whale skeleton or those remains of dinosaurs who walked the earth until some 65 million years ago. They also visited the four-story flourishing rain forest filled with butterflies and plants and the amazing aquarium, one of the most biologically diverse and interactive aquariums on Earth. "Home to nearly 40,000 live animals, representing more than 900 unique species, it offers guests an unprecedented view of underwater and terrestrial habitats. From species displayed nowhere else in the world to exhibits about cutting-edge research in little-known ocean ecosystems, a visit to Steinhart Aquarium is full of discovery."

Super fun day for all!

BTI Social Events

Pie Feast

November 22, 2019

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, when we take stock in all the blessings in our lives and step into this season of gatherings, good cheer and renewed connections, keep in mind that our BTI teachers provide these kinds of bonding events for our teens throughout the year. This is one of the values that they hold dear and one of the leading benefits that BTI students feel when they think of how the BTI program has influenced their high school experience. It's the community, the learning community that fosters connection, creativity, confidence, and lasting friendships. The Pie Feast is just another great example of how BTI students come together to connect, giggle and enjoy the finer things in life.

Let's hear it one more time for this amazing team of BTI teachers (Ms.Burndon & Ms. Pierce not pictured here).


study night

December 12, 2019

As Ms. Abdilla said, "We had about 50 students attend from all three grade levels - they studied, "collaborated," got needed tutoring, a few even submitted missing work to raise their grades!" In alphabetical order, Books, Brains, Friends, Pizza, Snacks and Teachers. Once again, BTI teachers go above and beyond the call of duty!!

Upcoming events

  • Spring schedule will be posted in Issue 4 in January. Stay tuned!

Save the date

  • June 3, 2020 - BTI Graduation at the Performing Arts Center - 6:30 p.m.

Additional ways you can help


Contact Information

  • Susan Gold - Co-Director of BTI: sgold@seq.org
  • Jaime Abdilla - Co-Director of BTI: jabdilla@seq.org
  • Faith Velschow - Director of Mentoring and Career Services: fvelschow@seq.org 650-591-7502
  • Kevin Marks – President of the BTI Development Committee: kevin.marks@roche.com
  • Kat Eden - Sophomore Parent Rep & Communications Rep: kateden01@gmail.com
  • Cheryl Shelmadine - Junior Parent Rep and newsletter editor: service@copyteclegal.com
  • Jennifer Douglis - Junior Parent Rep: jdouglis@smfc.k12.ca.us
  • Tanya Rianda - Senior Parent Rep: tanya.rianda@gmail.com
  • Gurpreet Padam - Senior Parent Rep: gurpreetpadam@gmail.com

Please feel free to contact any of us if you have any questions, ideas or concerns. You can also submit articles, stories and/or photos to the editor of our Parent & Community BTI newsletter. We would love to feature what your amazing BTI student is up to!

go bti scots!

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