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STAFF

Lauren Whitaker

I am one of the original members who started with GapBuster Inc. in 1998, I was just in the 2nd grade.  In 2003, I became a certified Peer Educator for HIV/AIDS with GapBuster Inc. I have had so many amazing opportunities due to my involvement with GapBuster;  I have traveled overseas to countries such as South Africa, Mexico, and Bahamas to give presentations on HIV Prevention. I have exercised public speaking in front of the County Counsel and The Board of Education. As well as enhance many leadership skills throughout my life academically, socially, and psychologically.

Currently, I am the Office Coordinator and the new Leaders In Training (LIT) Coordinator at GapBuster Inc. I am studying Healthcare Services Management with a minor in Diversity Awareness at UMUC. I am excited to dedicate myself to helping high school students reach their full potential. I know firsthand how impactful the LIT program can be on a child’s life and I am honored to be in this new position.

“GapBuster’s changed my life and with that great impact I will go change the world”–Lauren A. Whitaker

Michael L. Green, Jr

Mr. Michael L. Green, Jr. is a native of Desoto, Texas, and is the director of GapBuster’s Building Scholars for the Future Program, located in Riverdale, Maryland. Michael brings to the GapBuster family a very diverse background regarding youth and education as evidenced by his work with parents, students, and educational colleagues of all demographics.

In 2011 Michael graduated from the illustrious North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, affectionately known as A&T, and although he majored in accounting, most of his time was spent working and volunteering in juvenile detention centers, group homes, and early middle college programs. Following his tenure at A&T, Michael worked but for a short time in the field of accounting but ultimately found his true calling to be education, and returned home to begin working for the Texas Public School system.

Since this life-changing revelation Mr. Green has received his masters in Special Education from the University of the Southwest. In addition to this accomplishment he has also been able to gain experience as a certified 6th grade math instructor, educational grant manager, and motivational speaker as a result of the creation of his very own speaking firm, Motivational Goals. During the summer months Michael doesn’t take time off, but rather spends it providing logistical guidance to teams dedicated to providing educational conferences and cultural awareness opportunities to high school students all across America. Michael is very passionate about his work with young people and their families and looks forward to continuing his commitment and dedication with GapBuster.

Margaret O’Connor
Youth Program Assistant
GapBuster Learning Center, Inc
Margaret O’Connor is one of the original members of GapBuster. She attended GapBuster at Forest Knolls Elementry School. Margaret O’Connor graduated from Northwood High School in 2009. In the fall of 2009 she attended McDaniel College and in 2013 graduated with an undergraduate degree in psychology. She worked at Macys from December of 2013 through May of 2015. Margaret is thrilled to work with GapBuster as a youth program assistant at the Montgomery County office.

 

GapBuster Needs Your Help!

GapBuster has been selected by Aetna Voices of Health to win up to $30,000 because we have created a great program that integrates health and fitness. We can win, but only with your help and ALL your friends, family, and associates help.

Go to http://www.aetnavoicesofhealth.com/gapbusters.php for more!

This year, users who sign in with their email address can cast a total of 5 votes for GapBuster.
Users who sign in via their favorite social network are allowed to post 1 vote per day, every day until voting ends.
You could potentially cast up to 27 votes for your favorite agency if you sign in with your favorite social network!
Our URL to access our page directly, and to vote for your organization is:

http://www.aetnavoicesofhealth.com/gapbusters.php 

 

Click this link NOW and cast your first 5 votes!

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Spotlight on: GapBuster alum and STEAM Instructional assistant Roland White

20140516_154704Roland White is a Maryland native and member of the GapBuster STE(A)M team, acting as an Instructional Assistant.

Roland is a rising senior at Morehouse College and experienced GapBuster for the first time on a California college tour when he was a junior at Bishop Mcnamara High School, from which he graduated cum laude in 2011. He has rejoined GapBuster for the summer program and says he feels inspired by the mission of the organization and the passion of its Executive Director.

GapBuster is “phenomenal,” said Roland, who descrobes his love for kids as a reason for coming aboard. “[The students are] funny, vibrant, learning…there’s something special about that. It’s humbling.”

At Morehouse College, Roland is a Spanish / Political Science double major with a passion for music. He is also committed to sevice, because as he puts it “that’s why we’re here. We’re here to serve.” He describes Morehouse as a unique experience because it is an HBCU (Historically Black College or University).

Roland is weighing his options as graduation at Morehouse looms. Law school, graduate studies, international ambitions…Roland White is grounded in his community and headed for great things.

Spotlight on: GapBuster alum and STEAM teaching assistant Taylor McTootle

Taylor McTootle has recently joined the GapBuster family for the summer as a teaching assistant and coordinator for the 2014 school year. Taylor was involved with GapBuster during her middle school years, particpating in programs such as HIV/AIDS Peer Education and leadership development.

Taylor was born in DC and grew up in Metro Maryland, attending and obtaining a degree from Holton-Arms high school in Bethesda in 2010. She developed an interest in travel in high school when she journeyed to West Africa as part of a high school Global Education program. Taylor participated in community service and still values service to this day.

After graduation from high school, Taylor attended Spelman College in Atlanta, graduating in 2014 with a degree in International Studies with a focus in Development. During her college years, Taylor traveled to the Dominican Republic and Spain on study abroad programs.

Ultimately, Taylor would like to be an educator, ideally for middle and high school-aged students, though she is considering pursuing graduate study.

Taylor is interested in dance (having studied ballet and modern), chess, which she tutors, and reading.

Wheaton Knights Race to the Finish Line in NSBE, Jr. Ten80 Competition

Soulihe Nida works with teammates on Saturdays to prep for the competition

Soulihe Nida works with teammates on Saturdays to prep for the competition

 

By Rebecca Seel

In the basement of Wheaton High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, in a room filled with computers and students quietly conferring with one another in front of glowing screens, the members comprising the Wheaton Knights team, part of GapBuster Inc.’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, Jr., prepare for a competition testing teamwork and engineering acumen on a national stage.
Flitting among students typing up presentation notes, updating the team’s website or using advanced image editing software to work on logos and graphics, senior Soulihe Nida leads the NSBE team with a quiet confidence and determination.
Nida, 17, is the project manager of the Wheaton NASCAR Ten80 team and the president of the Wheaton Knights/GapBuster’s NSBE Jr. chapter. He oversees the students in several committees who develop a comprehensive presentation, create business and marketing materials, and fix up and race a radio-controlled model car in a series of tests. Nida says his team (made up of 15 students) is prepared to compete at the 2014 National Conference for NSBE in Nashville, Tennessee at the end of March.
The NASCAR Ten80 Student Racing Challenge is a national project dedicated to bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum to students across the country and helping students to pursue STEM subjects in college and STEM careers.
At regional meetups and the national NSBE conference, the Knights have customized model race cars, using mechanical skills to fine-tune a speedy vehicle that encompasses agility, endurance and steerability.Those with mechanical expertise spend Saturdays fine-tuning their cars, then test racing them around the room or down the hallways, with a noisy result and a collision or two with table legs or walls.
When senior Ashan Harischandra picks up the car sans plastic cover that he has worked on meticulously for months, it looks like a mechanical lobster in his hand. But upon observation as he tinkers away, with all of the months and hours spent on the little machine parts he is less a mechanic and more a Gepetto, an expert on every part of the car he has painstakingly crafted and recrafted.

Wheaton senior Ashan Harischandra works on the Knights' car

Wheaton senior Ashan Harischandra works on the Knights’ car

Harischandra joined NSBE because of the Ten80 Challenge, with the ability to be a driver and mechanic and cooperate with other students, like his teammate Victor Kyle. Harischandra enthusiastically described some of the design elements he would be incorporating into the car, visual proof of the dedication the Knights have put into the race.
As part of his role as project manager, Nida decided the roles of the students in the challenge and their responsibilities based on each person’s character and their strengths. The students were divided into teams responsible for racing and mechanics, a presentation, and marketing/public relations.
“It’s fifteen people working together on a variety of different things,” said Senior Kifle Woldu.
Woldu said he was interested in the components of the challenge that included web design, calling the opportunity to design a website “pretty cool.”
“Self-exploration is something the competition gives you,” he said.
Woldu, who joined last year, said of NSBE Jr., “I’ve learned more about what I’ve wanted to do and made close long-lasting friendships.”
Wheaton’s unique engineering academic offerings have helped the Knights in their quest.
“What we learned in class goes into the Wheaton Knight’s,” Nida said. He takes part in the Engineering Academy at Wheaton HS, of which 80% of Wheaton’sKnights members are students in. The students work directly on their Ten80 NSBE projects in the class and it is incorporated into the STEM curriculum.
“It goes beyond the core classes,” he said. “[You’re] able to apply it hands-on or on the computer to learn. You know what someone’s talking about with aerodynamics and when you’re modifying your car, it’s aerodynamically sound.”
“The great thing aboutGapBuster, Inc. NSBE Jr. within Wheaton High School or anywhere else is the idea of collaboration, being able to work with one another.”

UMD volunteers, Souhile and teammates and Sligo middle schooler Russell Price in the Wheaton Engineering Center

Nida, a graduating senior, intends to study systems engineering or chemical engineering in college.
“Many things with NSBE Jr. have helped me figure out my career path…NSBE has given me the experience with leadership and the professional world of engineering and many other careers. I’ve really liked doing the team projects that enhance my teamwork and leadership, it excites me.”
Indeed, Nida is a personification of the ideal NSBE Jr. student. The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), founded in 1975 at Purdue University, is a student-run organization that strives to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community. Nida directed his team to learn the history and mission of NSBE and has internalized it himself, able to recite the mission statement from memory.
During our conversation, Nida spoke softly and rapidly about his role as project manager in the program, his involvement with NSBE and his hopes for the future. His answers regarding the upcoming competition were reserved and cautiously optimistic; Nida is not one to boast. When asked about leadership, he spoke louder and more confidently. If his college does not offer a National Society of Black Engineers chapter, Nida intends to start one himself.
“[NSBE] provides you so many opportunities…to make sure you go from an engineering graduate into a job, and that’s the important part, that you have professional engineers who stretch their hand for college students.”
Nida leads by example according to his teammates.
“He’s a great leader,” said Woldu. “I feel like we’re in a good spot for the competition. A lot of our team’s success can be attributed to this guy.”
They agreed that Nida was a good delegator and skilled at “getting the job done.” They also said they’ve learned leadership skills from Nida.
The Wheaton Knights prepared for the competition through the aid of their parent organization GapBuster, Inc., students volunteers and mentors from the University of Maryland: College Park, Wheaton educator Andrea Robertson-Nottingham, and GapBuster Youth Program Director Malcolm Clyburn.
“[The Wheaton team is] well on its way to performing great at Nationals. They have been working on their project for a while and they’re hungry,” said Clyburn. “The leadership and the organization is their greatest strength.”
Of their Team Coach, Ms. Robertson, Nida said, “[she is] wonderful and has helped us in every way. She is an engineering teacher who knows the process of collaboration. Every year brings her new ideas.”
“Miss Robertson is one of the best teachers I’ve seen,” said Clyburn. “You have teachers and you have teachers, who really get engaged in their school and delve into what the kids are interested in…Miss Robertson is one of the biggest driving forces behind the team’s success because she is such a good teacher.”
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work,” said Robertson. “These kids have been dedicated, coming in on Saturdays and doing things on their own time. That’s been excellent, to see them come together. Each person on the team has their own speciality, everybody is using their skills to their max and people are willing to step out of their comfort zone and learn new things.”
Despite all of the praise, Robertson credits the students with their success.
“It has been good to be a mentor, I don’t have to do as much. This has been a student-run production.”
GapBuster, Inc. has another NSBE Jr. team with Prince George’s County students from several high schools. Nida is sportsmanlike when he speaks of the other team.
“It is very fun [to compete against the CEP team] because you see that everyone takes on a different mindset. We help one another, depend on one another, and they help us figure out things…it’s fun being under one GapBuster team. [At the conference] we will be partnering and helping each other out. They compete with their own car, we compete with our own car, hopefully we do well…”

Wheaton and CEP students race model cars in a regional heat

Wheaton and CEP students race model cars in a regional heat

Nida mentioned several components of the NSBE conference he is looking forward to, including “the convention itself, the experience itself…to see what other teams have done. We’ve spent the time to make sure our car’s prepared, our team is prepared as professionally as possible and we are making sure that we are projecting the objective that the whole Ten80 is for.”
“I think the whole big family within NSBE is the most fun part…that someone can relate to you so well. When you go the convention you see the ideals of the mission which are to academically and professionally succeed, and positively impact the community. Our students are part of a large organization moving forward within the community within national and beyond. There will be professional engineers, college engineers…the same people who know the same things, with the same interests, get contacts and network with real engineers.”
Of everything that he mentioned, “competing with other teams” came last.
There are plenty of offerings at the conference that interest other students. Harischandra, the mechanical wiz, was looking forward to the car panels and showcases, the presentations, and definitely the bus ride, “full of characters within our teams.”
One of the students, with a grin, just said “winning.”
The conversation turned to predictions for the conference. Nida was more cautious than the other students in betting on a win.
“I don’t even know what our 100% is yet,” said Nida pensively.
“If I tune the car just right I’m pretty sure I can smoke everyone in the competition,” Harischandra said confidently. “When the car can keep up with me, everything’s cool.”
Clyburn and Robertson were optimistic about Wheaton’s performance at the National Conference.
“We are at the top, near the top, hopefully we’ll finish at the top,” said Robertson.
Clyburn predicts a one/two finish in the high school Ten80 competition, though he did not specify which of the GapBuster teams he predicted for the top spot.
While members of the Wheaton team talked about NSBE and the Ten80 experience, Nida sat quietly at the table, contributing the occasional comment. At the end of the conversation, he spoke up:
“I’d like to say something about my teammates. I think the well-functioning of the team is very much dependent upon the components itself. I can trust people like Ashan and Kifle…they’re as important as anyone else on the team; it doesn’t matter where they fall on the pyramid of leadership, it’s that I can trust [them]. They provide their own strengths to the team and their own part in the whole function of the team.”
While the efforts of the Wheaton High Knights can be attributed to leadership and mentorship, it is clear that success begins at the individual level. Every member of the team is a leader unto him or herself, aiming for victory and personifying the values of an organization that has given them the opportunities to strive forward.