Joseph Militello, a junior at Pasco High School, is one of 90 students from throughout the world selected to attend a summer scientific research program at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Militello will spend seven weeks immersed in the 57th annual University of Florida Student Science Training Program.
He was chosen for the residential study program through a highly selective application program, according to background materials from the University of Florida.
The curriculum includes 28 hours a week in a science or engineering research lab, where participants are involved in ongoing research as part of a mentor’s lab team.
Militello also will write a research paper, give two research talks, attend faculty lectures, go on field trips and take part in activities aimed at helping him to build leadership skills.
The program was established in 1959, and since then has involved more than 4,300 academically talented students from 20 states in the United States and from countries around the world.
Militello is excited about the possibilities.
“I’m nervous, but confident at the same time,” the 17-year-old said.
“I’m nervous because it will be one of the first times I’ve been thrown into a situation that I have absolutely no idea who I’m going to be with, what I’m going to be studying,” he said.
“I know I’m going to struggle, because it’s going to be very rigorous,” he added, noting that he has been fairly laid back with his high school courses.
He’s looking forward to meeting other students involved in the residential research program.
He thinks there’s a chance he could develop some lifelong friends, because others taking part in the program have interests that are similar to his. Militello also thinks the experience of working with researchers will have a lasting impact.
At this point, he’s keeping his career option open.
He’s drawn to dentistry, but is also intrigued by genetics.
The residency program also will help him have a better idea regarding whether he would want to consider a career in scientific research, he said.
He hopes that he’ll be doing research in dentistry during the UF program, because he’s already developed a bit of foundation in that arena.
He’s shadowed some Tampa Bay area dentists.
He’s spent time with Dr. Mark Farina, who is an orthodontist; Dr. Patrick Abbey, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon; and Dr. Louis Cerillo, who practices general dentistry and does implants.
As part of his application, Militello had to submit letters of recommendation from two teachers.
Jacqueline Watson, a mathematics teacher at Pasco High, was one of the teachers that recommended him for the program.
“I have known Joseph for three years, and he is not only a great student but very mature for his age,” Watson wrote.
“Besides being gifted academically, Joseph also works well with others.
“He realizes that, while some things come easy to him, that is not always the same for other students.
“Joseph offers to tutor students that are struggling and is patient when doing this.
“Joseph is one of those students that comes along and, as a teacher, you feel fortunate to say you had him in your class. He challenges you to step up your game, because he wants and needs that challenge. I am amazed at all he has and is still accomplishing, and he would be a genuine asset to your program,” Watson wrote.
Militello said he enjoy tutoring others, because he has personally gained from being tutored.
Watson tutored him to help him build his skills. Then she became his mentor, and now she is a friend, Militello said.
In another part of the application, Militello was asked to write about someone who has been influential in his life. He chose to write about his stepdad, Paul Finora.
“I admire his thoughtful discussions and the way he weaves a life lesson into every conversation,” he wrote in part.
“He is my dad, and I cherish that. Any man can create a child, but it takes a father to raise one,” he added.
Militello said his interest in science began when he was in elementary and intensified during middle school.
He credits Michael Demaree, a science teacher at Centennial Middle School, for making the topic more attractive to him.
“He (Demaree) was always very interested in what he was teaching. He was always very human with his students,” Militello said.
“He was a very understanding teacher. He encouraged his students to explore different aspects of their life — other than just show up to school, do your work, go home and sleep.”
“He wanted everyone to be a very well-rounded person. He would talk to people about football. He would talk to people about band.
“You weren’t a number,” Militello said.
Besides enjoying mathematics and science, Militello’s other interests include music and boxing.
He boxes every Saturday. He plays the trumpet, French horn and guitar.
His mom Brenda Finora and his stepdad, Paul Finora, are ecstatic about his selection for the program.
It’s a big deal, his mom said.
But it’s also expensive, she added. It costs $5,000 to attend.
Militello is covering part of those costs by working part-time as a bus boy at Texas Roadhouse.
The family had been hoping that a portion of the costs could be covered by scholarship funds from local organizations, but those are already earmarked for other students, his she said.
So, a scholarship fund has been set up at San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union. Donations can be made by writing a check out to Joseph Militello and noting in the memo portion of the check that the check is intended for the Joseph Militello Scholarship Fund.
Donations also can be dropped off at any branch of the credit union or mailed to the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 1057, San Antonio, Florida 33576.
If they would like to donate directly to the UF-SSTP Program to help cover his expenses, send a check payable to the University of Florida – SSTP, writing Joseph Militello in the memo section of the check.
The address is University of Florida- SSTP, 334 Yon Hall, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
Published April 22, 2015