Breaking the ice before it begins

first_imgEngineers from Harvard University have designed and demonstrated ice-free nanostructured materials that literally repel water droplets before they even have the chance to freeze.The finding, reported online in ACS Nano on Nov. 9, could lead to a new way to keep airplane wings, buildings, power lines, and even entire highways free of ice during the worst winter weather. Moreover, integrating anti-ice technology right into a material is more efficient and sustainable than conventional solutions like chemical sprays, salt, and heating.A team led by Joanna Aizenberg, Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a core member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, focused on preventing rather than fighting ice buildup.“We wanted to take a completely different tact and design materials that inherently prevent ice formation by repelling the water droplets,” says Aizenberg. “From past studies, we also realized that the formation of ice is not a static event. The crucial approach was to investigate the entire dynamic process of how droplets impact and freeze on a supercooled surface.”In comparison with traditional ice prevention or removal methods like salting or heating, the nanostructured materials approach is efficient, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly. Further, when chemicals are used to de-ice a plane, for example, they can be washed away into the environment and their disposal must be carefully monitored. Similarly, salt on roads can lead to corrosion and run-off problems in local water sources.The researchers anticipate that with their improved understanding of the ice forming process, a new type of coating integrated directly into a variety of materials could soon be developed and commercialized.last_img read more

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Michael Tinkham, superconductivity pioneer, 82

first_imgMichael “Mike” Tinkham, the Rumford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics Emeritus at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Physics, passed away on Nov. 4. He was 82 years old.Born on Feb. 23, 1928, in Green Lake County, Wis., Tinkham earned his undergraduate degree at Ripon College in 1951 and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees, both in physics, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also spent a year at the Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford as a postdoctoral fellow.He joined the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957, rising to full professor, and then left in 1966 for Harvard, where he remained for the rest of his career.Tinkham’s research focused primarily on superconductivity, as captured in his classic text, “Introduction to Superconductivity.”In his later years he was active in studying the unique properties of materials when sample dimensions are reduced to the nanometer range.In the Journal of Superconductivity, Tinkham’s former student Christopher Lobb, Ph.D. ’80, wrote: “The opportunity to work with Mike … was one of the greatest experiences of my life. As a researcher, Mike’s rare combination of experimental and theoretical ability has kept him at the top of the field for decades.“As a teacher, Mike worked constantly to make things understandable, and did so with enthusiasm and wit. Any success I’ve had since leaving his group has largely been due to what I learned from him …”Tinkham’s awards and honors included election to the National Academy of Sciences; the receipt of the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize; and the Fred E. Saalfeld Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Science in 2005.last_img read more

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Planning a life for others

first_imgJeffrey Lynn Hall Jr., who graduates from Harvard College today (May 26), grew up in the historically black western border of St. Louis — “a completely different world” from the buffed up areas of the city closer to Washington University, he said. “You notice a stark difference.”But his childhood was comfortable. “We had plenty on top of plenty,” said Hall, and academics were important from primary school on. “My mom always said that if my sister and I brought her A’s and B’s, we would get A and B privileges.”The constraints of a divided city were hard to miss. “In my childhood I noticed a lot of discrepancies,” said Hall. The family had to leave the neighborhood to shop, for instance, and grass grew in sidewalk cracks more than on lawns. But young Hall found his refuges: a safe home, a loving mother, and an attentive grandfather “who schooled me a lot on the intangibles of life.”At the Hempstead Accelerated School, Hall was at the head of every class through fifth grade. He remembers with gratitude that black history — proof that achievement is not a matter of race — was not just on the curriculum, but “a part of everyday discourse.”Hall learned adaptability at McKinley Classical Junior Academy, a middle school for the gifted, because once in a while he was no longer at the top of the class. “There were so many stellar students,” he said, “I was no longer the lone star.”At Soldan International Studies High School, Hall earned a nearly perfect grade point average, was commander of the Air Force Junior ROTC unit, captained both the football and wrestling teams, and by his senior year was one of the school’s four Gates Millennium Scholars.Hall got an expanded view of cultural diversity at Soldan, where about a third of the students were from other countries. He also debunked the myth that “learning is not cool” in inner-city schools. Support for his achievements came from everywhere, said Hall, even from fellow students “struggling with the fads of the streets.”It was a surprise for Hall to see a recruiter from Harvard — Senior Admissions Officer David L. Evans — show up at Soldan in the fall of 2006. “You always hear about Harvard in the movies and on television,” Hall said, and getting accepted seemed like a dream. “But there were many people who told me not to close any doors before they were open.”By that spring, Hall was the first student in 30 years admitted to Harvard from a mainstream public school in St. Louis.His freshman year brought another surprise, an atmosphere of academic rigor he compared to “going from zero to 100 miles an hour, immediately.” After flirtations with the sciences and with government, Hall settled on a concentration in social anthropology. “I appreciate the depth of its perspective,” he said, and the attention it brings to the voices of the powerless.Social anthropology also led Hall to Ecuador last fall. He took a full course load in Spanish in Quito, studied microfinance, and lived for six weeks in the Chota Valley, whose Afro-Ecuadorean inhabitants are descended from enslaved Africans of the colonial period.Hall called the four months in Ecuador “the most powerful experience I ever had,” in part because of the new friendships he made “across ethnic, racial, and linguistic boundaries.”In the end, Hall considered his getting into and through Harvard the work of others as much as his own, so he wants to give back. “I want it to be all for someone else,” he said of his education.Hall knows it won’t be easy. “There’s a constant battle between my desire to serve and the comforts my education may afford me,” he said. “This is the grand conflict.”In June, Hall starts a two-year fellowship with the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. He will help mitigate the sentences of juvenile offenders in prison for life and study racial bias in jury selection and sentencing. “There’s a vast amount of wasted human potential in the justice system,” said Hall, and ex-convicts face bleak futures — like the future he feels could easily have been his own.“Before I was a graduate of Harvard University, I was a graduate of the west side of St. Louis, Missouri,” he said. “That’s the tassel. Those are the stripes I wear that are most honorable. Those are the roots from which everything has grown.”last_img read more

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Schermerhorn named distinguished fellow

first_imgThe Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) elected Marc Schermerhorn as a distinguished fellow during the society’s Vascular Annual Meeting held June 16-18, in Chicago. Schermerhorn is an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, as well as the director of clinical research in the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.The designation of distinguished fellow is bestowed upon an active, international, or senior member of the SVS who has made substantial, sustained contributions in two of three categories: research, service, or education.For more on Schermerhorn and the award.last_img read more

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Battling a bacterial threat

first_imgIn 2002, a new kind of bacterial infection was detected in the United States. It was caused by a common bug, Staphylococcus aureus, but with a troubling new twist. It was resistant to the drug that typically offered the last line of treatment, when other remedies failed.The appearance of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, dubbed VRSA, sent shock waves through the medical and public health communities. For years, vancomycin was the physicians’ ace in the hole, used to treat infections that didn’t respond to other drugs, in particular methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA.In 2009, Harvard scientists teamed up to tackle the challenge posed by growing antibiotic resistance, creating a program bringing together researchers to examine the problem of antibiotic resistance, with a specific focus on VRSA, MRSA, and vancomycin-resistant enterococcus, or VRE.Michael Gilmore, who organized the Harvard-wide Program on Antibiotic Resistance and whose lab in May announced it had decoded the genome of the 12 known VRSA strains in the United States, said the group is taking a diversified approach to meet the challenge of antibiotic resistance.The group has seven main investigators who communicate and meet regularly, sharing notes and brainstorming fresh approaches to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.Members of the group include Gilmore, the Sir William Osler Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary; Richard Losick, the Maria Moors Cabot Professor of Biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS); Fred Ausubel, professor of genetics at HMS and Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH); Eleftherios Mylonakis, formerly at MGH and now contributing from Brown University; Suzanne Walker, professor of microbiology and immunobiology at HMS and an affiliate of the FAS Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; Roberto Kolter, professor of microbiology and immunobiology at HMS; and David Hooper, professor of medicine at HMS and MGH.Of the three bacteria types the group is studying, MRSA is the most widespread, making up 30 percent of bacterial infections contracted outside of hospitals. It is deadly, having killed 18,000 per year since 2005, and is resistant to all of the commonly used antibiotics, including penicillin, amoxicillin, and methicillin. Vancomycin is typically reserved to fight MRSA and has to be carefully administered in a hospital, Gilmore said.One difficulty in fighting antibiotic resistance is that the pace of new drug discovery has slowed, and so new drugs to which bacteria could not yet be resistant are few, Gilmore said. Antibiotics are often isolated from new strains of bacteria taken from the environment. The problem, Gilmore said, is that pharmaceutical companies have already scoured the easily accessible locations and are now extending into extreme environments in search of novel compounds.These compounds are often the result of the chemical warfare that bacteria wage on each other. But only about 1 percent of bacteria found in the wild can be grown in the lab, Gilmore said, making the other 99 percent too difficult to use as sources of new medicines. Though efforts are under way to create strains that can live in the lab — or to transplant their DNA into bacteria like E. coli that grow readily in laboratory conditions — the process remains slow and difficult, Gilmore said.The problems in dealing with drug-resistant bacterial strains aren’t just biological, however. Economics also comes into play, Gilmore said.Drug companies have slowed their own research into new antibiotics because it is more economical to focus efforts on drugs for long-term conditions, Gilmore said. Compared with statins, used for a lifetime by patients to control high cholesterol, a new antibiotic makes less economic sense. Such a drug has similar development costs but will be used just for a few weeks until a patient is cured. A replacement for last-line drugs like VRSA, used only in the most intractable cases, would bring in even less money.That’s why, Gilmore said, it’s important that academic scientists do a lot of the groundwork and initial discovery no longer being done by pharmaceutical companies.For Losick, that means collaborating with Kolter in working on biofilms to find new ways to fight a physical structure that appears to protect the bacteria from antibiotics. When bacteria form biofilms, Losick said, they become more resistant to antibiotics, so research into how to prevent biofilms from forming or how to disperse them can provide an alternative way to fight bacteria. Today, Losick said, if a biofilm forms on an implant, like a hip replacement, there are few good ways to fight it, and the implant often has to come out.“Staphylococcus aureus is an important public health threat. The idea is to develop fresh strategies for controlling it,” Losick said. “I think we all feel very pleased on how the program is progressing.”last_img read more

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Frank Aguilar of HBS dies at 80

first_imgHarvard Business School (HBS) Professor Emeritus Francis J. Aguilar, an authority on strategic planning and general management who also made his mark on generations of students as a gifted and caring teacher, died on Feb. 17 in Portsmouth, N.H., at the age of 80. He had been battling gallbladder cancer for the past three years. He was a member of the active HBS faculty for more than three decades. He joined the HBS faculty in 1964 while still a doctoral student and became a full professor with tenure in 1971.“Frank Aguilar was a serious student and insightful observer of what general managers do and how they do it,” said Stephen A. Greyser, the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, and a longtime friend and colleague of Aguilar. “For more than 30 years, Frank helped countless students and practitioners understand the complex responsibilities facing business leaders through his exemplary teaching and well-regarded books on general management issues. Beyond that,” Greyser continued, “he was a wonderfully considerate person who treated everyone with kindness and respect.”At HBS Aguilar taught courses in general management, accounting and control, business policy, and ethics in the M.B.A. program and several executive education programs. A prolific case writer, Aguilar authored or co-authored more than 100 case studies during his career.His involvement in business education went beyond HBS. To increase the number of minorities embarking on careers in management, in 1992 he helped create the Management Education Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving business education in universities serving African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.A funeral Mass will be celebrated at the Immaculate Conception Church, 98 Summer St., Portsmouth, N.H., on March 9 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow in St. James Church Hall, 2075 Lafayette Rd., in Portsmouth.Read the complete obituary.last_img read more

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Bringing culture outdoors

first_imgThe idea of “The City as Canvas” is to bring art — what one might experience behind the doors of museums and cultural institutions — into public spaces.On Friday, Loeb Fellow Helen Marriage led a conversation on that topic as part of the series “The Power of Cultural Disruption” at the Graduate School of Design. Jim Lasko, a Loeb Fellow and co-artistic director of Chicago’s Redmoon Theater Company, and Elizabeth Streb, a prominent choreographer, joined Marriage in the discussion.Lasko said that his commitment to public space and the “narrow band of the public” who actually experience art in traditional venues have driven his work into everything from Chicago’s most crime-infested neighborhoods to the plaza and façade of the Museum of Contemporary Art.Lasko said his work focuses on “incorporating the many into the experience of what art is” as “a mechanism for illuminating humanity in a public space.”“Public space symbolizes how we understand our culture,” he said. Creating art in public space, he said, “induces people to have more liberty.”Rather than comment on her art, Streb suggested playing a video of her work commissioned by the mayor of London for the Olympics last year. “Action speaks louder than words,” she said.While planning the event, titled “One Extraordinary Day,” she became obsessed with “piercing the sky with the human form.” She succeeded in creating art in, on, and hanging from some of London’s most famous places, in a way “that people couldn’t look away from.”The talk turned into a lively exchange between the presenters and the audience of about three dozen people, who asked about financing large-scale projects and navigating the bureaucracies of institutions and governments.“As soon as you become involved in client services, the client sets the parameters,” said Lasko, joking that he is very good at waiting tables. “Part of the magic is that there is no sell,” he continued. “It’s a gift.”“Debt” was one solution, said Streb, remembering the days when she was a struggling artist with a day job working in a restaurant.When working with governments, trust and respect are vital, Marriage said. “You can change the world if you have that.”When the topic turned to critics, Streb commented that she “got slammed for [her show at] Park Avenue Armory, but still sold 800 tickets.”Streb also encouraged “class analysis” and said that it “would be a better world if everyone could walk through the doors [of a museum] and feel like frolicking,” no matter what they looked like.“The Power of Cultural Disruption” explores how cultural events can transform public space. The next event, “The City as Forum,” will be held at the Graduate School of Design at 1:15 p.m. on March 15 in Room 124, with guest Justine Simons, head of culture at the mayor of London’s office.last_img read more

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Narrative of the body, with a nasty twist

first_imgHumans crave comfort. Sadly, comfort isn’t always good for us.That’s one of the conclusions of Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman, who has spent the past couple of years considering what our evolutionary history says about today’s roaring epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as other chronic ailments.The work was key to his new book, “The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease,” in which Lieberman guides the reader all the way from our divergence from the apes to the present-day epidemiological transition, a period of increased longevity but also higher prevalence of noninfectious diseases such as osteoporosis and cancer.To some extent, these and other ailments are more common because we’re living longer, but many are “mismatch diseases” that stem from our bodies being inadequately adapted to the modern world. Millions of years of natural selection gave us bodies meant for physical activity and diets high in fiber and low in simple carbohydrates. Yet, thanks to recent cultural advances, many of us now live the easy life. We have machines to do our work, comfy chairs and shoes, and more food than we can eat — food loaded with fat, salt, and sugar.What’s more, many mismatch diseases are persisting or becoming more common because of how we respond to them.“By treating the symptoms rather than the causes of these diseases, we’ve created a pernicious positive feedback loop that is a novel form of cultural change,” said Lieberman, the Lerner Professor of Biological Sciences and chair of Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. “We don’t pass on obesity, cavities, and flat feet to our children, but we do pass on the environments that cause them; the result is a vicious circle.”“The Story of the Human Body” highlights seven significant steps that made us who we are today. The first five were the product of natural evolution, the last two consequences of cultural and societal developments.“I was trying to write a book for people who are curious about their bodies and why their bodies are the way they are,” Lieberman said. “So, instead of recounting the human family tree, essentially who begat whom, I decided to highlight what I think were the seven really major transformations that turned us from apes into 21st-century human beings.”The first key transition, causing the divergence from apes, was walking on two feet, a feat achieved by our early ancestors, including Ardipithecus, whose remains date to 5.8 million years ago, in Africa.Lieberman weaves echoes of a modern problem — climate change — into the story of human evolution. The transition to bipedalism, he says, occurred during a period of global cooling, when the extensive rain forests — and the abundant fruit they hold — were shrinking, drying, and giving way to less-fruitful woodlands.The second transition was brought to us by the genus Australopithecus — the famous fossil skeleton Lucy belongs here — which evolved to thrive in more open habitats by eating a diverse diet, one less reliant on fruit, and by evolving the ability to walk upright long distances to forage for food while still retaining the ability to climb trees.Lucy and her companions’ evolution was also driven by a changing climate as Africa continued to cool down and dry out, converting rain forest to open woodland and savannah. The resulting “fruit crisis,” Lieberman writes, favored ancestors better able to seek out seeds and stems, tubers and bulbs.About two million years ago, evolution of the first hunter-gatherers led to the first species of the human genus, the most important of which was Homo erectus. Homo erectus had a slightly bigger brain, as well as nearly human bodies, adapted for walking long distances, endurance running, making tools, throwing, and many other behaviors we now take for granted.Then, as Homo erectus and its descendants spread over the Old World during the ice ages, they harnessed enough energy to evolve even bigger brains, and larger bodies that matured more gradually. One key adaptation that likely evolved during this transition was the ability to store large amounts of body fat essential for feeding energy-hungry brains and for helping to sustain pregnancy and breastfeeding.Next: the origin of modern humans, Homo sapiens. Although our bodies are slightly different from other close relatives such as the Neanderthals, what really sets us apart are brains and skulls permitting more complex language, as well as more sophisticated cultural and cooperative abilities. Soon after we evolved about 200,000 years ago, we spread all over the globe, eventually becoming the sole surviving species of hominin.Evolution didn’t cease with the arrival modern humans. But the dominant force for change in the last few thousand years has been cultural evolution, whose many benefits and costs Lieberman documents. One of the biggest changes, he said, was the transition from hunting and gathering to farming, which gave us a more food, allowing populations to expand. It also, however, changed the foods we eat and caused us to crowd together in dirty cities, leading to the rise of many infectious illnesses. Because of mismatch diseases, farmers die younger, grow shorter, and suffer from more diseases than hunter-gatherers.The Industrial Revolution, the last major transition, began the process of replacing human labor with machines, but also saw the rise of science, medicine, sanitation, and other advances. On the plus side, ours is the healthiest era in human history, but even as we live longer, we are also ailing in ways that used to be rare or nonexistent, to a large extent because of diseases brought on by being overweight or out of shape.Lieberman argues that an evolutionary perspective not only explains how our bodies evolved and why we get sick, but also offers lessons for how to combat obesity and chronic disease. Almost all mismatch diseases, he points out, are caused by interactions between ancient genes we inherited and modern environments we created. Because we can’t change our genes, we have to change our environments.One obvious place to focus is on children, too many of whom are becoming overweight, “through no fault of their own, because they are doing what their bodies evolved to do, but under conditions for which these behaviors are no longer healthy.”It’s natural to crave junk food and to want to rest all day, Lieberman points out, but to fulfill those desires wasn’t an option until recently. Since children can’t make rational decisions about their health, we have to act on their behalf in school by banning junk foods and requiring more fitness-focused exercise, he said. For adults, Lieberman advocates using “nudges” such as taxation and financial incentives to influence environment in ways that promote health.“The bottom line is that we need help, not just from each other but from our government. And that’s where it gets contentious,” Lieberman said. “Yet, hopefully, 10 years from now we’ll look back at the fight over the sugar tax and the junk food tax and think they’re no-brainers, just as almost no one today questions the value of cigarette and alcohol taxes.”Though Lieberman’s work highlights our Stone Age origins, he is skeptical of “paleo” diets and lifestyles. Those who think we’re optimally adapted to a hunting and gathering lifestyle misunderstand evolution, he said.“Hunter-gatherers didn’t evolve to be healthy,” Lieberman said. “They evolved to have lots of babies.”last_img read more

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From farms to tables

first_img 14Inside Somerville’s Union Square Donuts, the mood is fun, like its gigantic crave-worthy maple bacon doughnuts. 6Carrots get rinsed before being boxed for that day’s farmers’ market. 16Sarah Willis (from left) and Hillary Brown roll pastry dough inside the kitchen. Their work typically starts around 4 a.m. 3On a harvest morning, Dave Purpura directs workers Ron Aakjar (left) and Tim Birnstiel. 1Farmer Dave Purpura named his Middleboro, Mass., farm Plato’s Harvest after his beloved pet goat. 10Anyone can take a tour of Taza’s Somerville factory. Here, tour leader Krysia Villon explains the three-day production process, which includes grinding cacao beans and wrapping the chocolate. 5Dave Purpura steps in the pen to feed — and pet — his pigs. If there’s anything more delicious than a newly picked, vine-ripened tomato or fresh golden corn, it surely must be chocolate or a sticky, carb-laden confection. All are available at the Harvard Farmers’ Market, held weekly at the Science Center Plaza and in Allston. But their origins may surprise you.Knowing where food comes from has never been more important in an age of global commerce and public debates over factory farming and genetically modified foods. This ethos is part of the farm-to-table movement, which emphasizes local foods such as those sold by the farms and vendors that serve the Harvard Farmers’ Market.Taza Chocolate is one such vendor. Producing circles of stoneground chocolate in nearby Somerville, Taza is committed to sustainability, even as it sources cocoa beans from Bolivia, Belize, and the Dominican Republic. By dealing in direct trade with certified organic farms in these countries without a middleman, Taza can pay cocoa farmers well above market wage. The beans head straight to Somerville, where they’re turned into chocolate.Right down the road at Union Square Donuts, production workers arrive at the break of dawn, ready to hand-roll, cut, fry, and glaze fresh doughnuts before most people have even hit the snooze button. They work mostly in silence, save for the noise from a radio and the phone, which rarely stops ringing. A good doughnut is hard to find.Farther off, in Middleboro, Mass., roosters signal another day on the farm for Dave Purpura, who rents his acreage for Plato’s Harvest Organic Farm. The former software engineer has been farming for nearly a decade. He and a few farmhands transport the day’s harvest to Purpura’s home, where it’s rinsed and boxed before it’s sent to farmers markets.The tableau of animals, cornstalks, and countrymen makes for a cinematic, even romantic, view. “Everyone thinks that until they get out here for a few hours, and it’s 90 degrees, and the romance goes out the window,” said Purpura. It’s hard work that makes a farm work.Additional reporting by Crystal Chandler. 19Fresh-cut doughnuts, ready for the sputtering oil. 4Ron Aakjar plucks squashes for the day’s farmers’ markets. 2Chickens graze between the rows of produce at Plato’s Harvest. 11Taza’s chocolate is an organic, vegan, dairy- and gluten-free treat. 7Tim Birnstiel shakes off some greens. 18Production manager Kristen Rummel counts and boxes doughnuts intended for afternoon’s farmers markets. 17Paige Degeorge (from left) and Dominic Dellaquila work on a batch of doughnuts. 15Union Square Donuts co-owner and pastry chef Heather Schmidt tapes up the week’s farmers’ market schedule. 20Sarah Willis strikes an artful balance carrying doughnuts to the walk-in fridge to chill. 8Founded in 2006, Taza specializes in Mexican-style chocolate. 9Taza participates in direct trade with organic cocoa farmers in Bolivia, Belize, and the Dominican Republic. Although not used in chocolate production, shells from the beans can be used for tea, mulch, and as a natural termite repellant. 13Taza employees prepare the final product for wrapping. 12Using stone mills instead of steel mills like most chocolate on the market gives Taza products a unique, grainy texture. last_img read more

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20 countries, one camp

first_img Nhu Xuan Le (left), 11, and Vy Bui, 11, work on their steps. Camping out Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer Counselors Jaydee Flemmings (left) and Maldini Bantefa observe the rehearsal. Yamilet Peguero, 9, originally from the Dominican Republic, gets some encouragement with a difficult dance step from Jaydee Flemmings. Nhu Xuan Le, 11, practices her part in the dance routine. Jaydee Flemmings (wearing hat), a senior counselor in Harvard’s Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment (BRYE) camp, leads dance rehearsal. The Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment summer camp, one of 12 Summer Urban Program camps offered by the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), is helping dozens of immigrant children feel more at home and teaching them ways to succeed — both in school and in life.The camp was established in 1987 to serve Vietnamese immigrants in Dorchester. Today, however, its campers represent 20 countries, including Ecuador, Sudan, and Haiti. The camp has always focused on a classroom curriculum emphasizing English as a second language (ESL), including activities to help children of immigrant families learn their new country’s culture while maintaining a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, their native culture. The campers are taught the importance of diversity, peaceful conflict resolution, and respecting other campers’ cultures and ways of life.Like the other camps, the Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment camp is run and coordinated by high school and college students through the PBHA at Harvard University. The camps serve more than 900 low-income, at-risk youth throughout Boston and Cambridge. The counselors work to empower campers to become productive, contributing members of their communities. No child is turned away because of an inability to pay. Counselors say that reaching out to local schools throughout the year helps establish good communication with teachers, and helps funnel children in need of ESL help to the camp.“The camp is awesome,” said 13-year-old Ben Le. “You get to go on a field trip every day and explore different parts of Boston, so you learn about the city’s history and community. And the kids here are really friendly. You can make friends just by asking questions and playing together.”  Le should know. He’s been a camper in the program for four years, ever since his family immigrated to Boston from Vietnam.Jose Magana ’15, the incoming president of PBHA, is a passionate advocate for the camp, having served as a senior counselor there for the last three summers.The camp “is different in that it’s specifically targeted to new immigrants who need to learn English, some of whom arrived in this country as recently as one week ago,” he said. “It’s an extremely diverse camp. One of the expectations for the camp is only speaking English, and it’s amazing to see how quickly growth manifests among the campers, even across so many countries.”Some campers attend for just a year or two, and others return for several years. Some eventually rise to leadership positions, becoming counselors as they enter high school and college.The camps “have such a powerful effect on the kids, and I hear that from teachers and community members as well,” said director of PBHA programs Kerry McGowan, who is currently serving his 19th summer with the effort. “It’s just an amazing program.” Yorklin Tejeda, 9, immigrated from the Dominican Republic. This is his second year in the BRYE program.last_img read more

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