USF’s SRI Program for High School Students

The Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) at the University of South Florida hosted a six week summer research program for a select group of high school students. The program is designed for research and education related to mental illness and related disorders.

“We identify students from the Upward Bound program or the CROP program,” said Dr. Catherine Batsche, the associate dean for academic affairs. “Most of these students will be the first in their families to attend college.”

This year, students worked on two projects organized around the theme of stigma. Specifically, one group is examining stigma associated with mental illness and the other group is studying stigma associated with substance abuse.  They compared their findings to assess how stigma is similar to, or different from the two conditions. The high school students prepared a research poster to present their findings at a symposium.

A student from Middleton High School, Jamir Sadiq said he wanted to learn how to properly conduct research and collect data. Being able to talk to other college students and ask them for advice has made Sadiq excited about college. The program was also beneficial to Sadiq because it gave him confidence to decide to pursue a double major in college. 

“I’m really excited about college now because they gave me such a positive outlook on having a double major,” said Sadiq, who plans on attending USF.

Marcus Tucker also plans on attending USF after graduating from Middleton High School. Tucker said he became involved in the SRI program because he has been interested in psychology and he wanted to find out what research would be like. 

“I heard about doctors and how they have to write things like a thesis or a dissertation and I wanted to be able to do it,” said Tucker.

 The most valuable thing Tucker has learned during his experience at USF’s SRI program is how to work as a group and consider others’ opinions. Tucker finds researching mental illnesses to be thought provoking. He plans on double majoring in engineering and psychology.

Zaria Bailey, a student from Leonard High School, also finds psychology interesting. She plans to double major in psychology and behavioral health at USF. This is Bailey’s second year participating in the SRI program. Her goal is to have the previous year’s research published.

The students had different incentives for participating in the SRI program, but all came out with knowledge to use in their pursuit of a college education.  First-hand experience of what to expect in college, combined with education of research related to their fields of study created a unique learning opportunity.

Batsche said her main goals are to increase the students’ interest in mental illness, encourage them to become researchers and teach them skills needed to succeed in the research aspect of their field.

“This program is a great way to help these students become successful. We want to give them an opportunity to conduct research in college, and to give them the exposure necessary for them to excel in their areas of interest,” said Batsche. “Ultimately, we want to prepare them with college exposure so it will increase their chances of success in an actual college setting.”