By Tim Harfmann
Catholic high school students at Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead, Long Island are receiving a prestigious honor — the opportunity to present their psychology research at an international conference. “It’s really exciting to go. It’s a really competitive place to be,” said Caroline Doran, a senior at the all-girls Catholic high school.
A dozen students will join hundreds of other presenters in Washington D.C. this Spring. It’s an annual convention organized by the Association of Psychological Science. But what makes these stellar students stand out — they’re in high school. Throughout the conference’s 30-year history, very few presenters their age had the same opportunity. “I think it’s going to be a really good experience. I think it’s going to be really cool to be the youngest people there because it’s going to be fun to see people say, ‘wow, I can’t believe you’re here!” said Grace Doran, another Sacred Heart Academy senior. “Standing next our 17-and-18-year-olds will be a Princeton undergraduate, a Western Kentucky grad student, and the occasional assistant professor,” said Doctor Stephen Sullivan. He oversaw their projects and says the students achieved years-worth of research in six months.
They’ll present a variety of topics, like how Hurricane Maria impacted high school students in Puerto Rico. The category-five storm ripped apart the U.S. territory last year. The Long Island students surveyed nearly 200 teenagers attending their sister school in San Juan. “More than 50 percent answered, ‘yes, I did see someone else get badly injured;’ or ‘yes, I did struggle to find food;’ or ‘yes, I had to move away from friends,” said Claire Carney. She is a senior at Sacred Heart and worked on the project.
Other topics range from students’ anxiety levels when teachers use red ink to grade tests and how students participate in extracurricular activities if they live in diverse neighborhoods.
The high school seniors credit their faith-based education for achieving the high honor. “Going to catholic school has made all the difference for me. I think it completely changes your high school experience. I think it gives you a really great foundation,” said Grace Doran.
The international conference is scheduled for the end of May.