Amrika Sieunarine ’16 can still conjure up how she felt the first time she climbed aboard the BioBus, a mobile science lab parked outside the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in New York City.
“I remember boarding this bus and being filled with so much excitement and curiosity in using microscopes, and I would say that’s the main reason I’m currently doing the work I do — because I want to translate that same experience to low-income students,” says Sieunarine, who now works at BioBus. “I think it’s very important for youth to have access to an innovative space that allows them to think outside the box, think outside the theoretical framework they are getting in the classroom, and build their confidence — to basically have a Hamilton experience.”
The nonprofit BioBus has two mobile labs, staffed with scientists, that visit low-income students to supplement and support what goes on in class. Sieunarine is heading toward her second anniversary at BioBus; as of August, she will be a “Pathways” manager, providing students and alumni resources such as career panels, resume-building workshops, and internships to help them in their scientific pursuits.
The BioBus still stops at her old high school, where her former science teacher, the guy who first brought BioBus to the school, still works. That’s Jared Fox ’03, longtime BioBus board member, who did everything he could to convince high-school-student Sieunarine to attend Hamilton. Fox is a good matchmaker. She loved the College, where she majored in world politics and earned a Bristol Fellowship. That enabled her to spend her first year out of College on a self-designed project studying women and poverty. Her research that took her to Jamaica, Brazil, Ghana, Greece, and Thailand.
After the Bristol, as she was working her network to find the right job, Sieunarine turned to her high school mentor and fellow Hamiltonian. Fox, who has a doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University, immediately thought that Sieunarine would be a boon to BioBus. “Sometimes you’ve just got to get the right people on the bus and then figure out what they are going to do later. But just knowing Amrika and how amazing she is, really, I knew we had to try to get her on board. And thankfully she accepted a position,” Fox said.
Sieunarine is thankful, too. She often tells people that she is where she is now — giving back to her community — because of what she gained through Hamilton.
“I consider myself fortunate to have received opportunities and resources that have allowed me to develop a strong sense of social worth and to recognize my own abilities to actively address and transform my social condition,” Sieunarine says. “I’m so delighted and grateful that now I’m in a position where I’m able to share those experiences and empower students in New York City who look, sound, and are like me.”