New Scripps science program takes Solana Beach students beyond the classroom

Through the Scripps Research Institute’s new Science Saturday program, local students are going beyond the classroom and outside the textbook to learn about science.

The program invites local high school students to the campus for special lectures and lab tours. Two hundred students are participating in the inaugural program, including about 30 from Casa de Amistad, a Solana Beach-based organization dedicated to fostering education and character development for local under-represented children.

“Scripps is one of the top research institutes in the nation, and it’s right in our own backyard,” said Nicole Mione-Green, Casa de Amistad’s program director. “Exposure to STEM-based classes and professions is important, so we’re really thankful for the opportunity.”

Del Mar resident Shirley King, a longtime institute volunteer, helped spearhead the Science Saturday program. She and several scientists had been discussing how to take advantage of the institute’s facilities and open the campus more to the public.

The institute already has an internship program for high school juniors and seniors, so King and the others behind Science Saturday wanted to target freshmen and sophomores.

“We wanted to reach the younger students to really get them interested in understanding what their opportunities are,” said King, whose husband has worked at the institute for 33 years.

Science Saturday kicked off Sept. 20, with two more lectures set for Jan. 10 and Feb. 28.

Casa de Amistad — which matches students with volunteer study companions — is the only nonprofit participating in the Science Saturday program. The remaining students come from seven San Diego schools — Crawford High School, Helix High School, High Tech High, La Jolla High School, Monte Vista High School, San Marcos High School and Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Casa de Amistad students meet with tutors after school twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last year, the organization incorporated more STEM-based activities into its programs, from inviting the Torrey Pines High School Robotics Team to the campus, to recruiting mentors with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math.

King reached out to Mione-Green after learning about her goal to emphasize STEM-based activities into its programs by reading a Solana Beach Sun article.

“We just thought it was a natural fit,” King said.

In addition to the lectures, the Science Saturday program matches schools with post-doctoral students, who will serve as mentors. Casa de Amistad was assigned two Ph.D. mentors who will tutor students throughout the school year.

“We want these kids to know they’re highly valued and that they can find ways to really thrive within school and within their own sense of well-being,” said King, who noted that an anonymous donor made Science Saturday possible.

“We want these students to have a real long-term view of their future.”

For more about Casa de Amistad and volunteer opportunities, visit

For more about the Scripps Research Institute, visit