Institutes for the 21st Century

La Cañada High School Institutes for the 21st Century and Intern program was held in the school's cafeteria on Friday. Several Institutes covering a wide variety of interest filled the room.

Visitors walked from table to table as students shared their presentations. The Astronomy Institute allowed students to study astronomy and robotics spaceflight technology. Steve Edberg is the Institute's mentor and an employee at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This year we have at least five really active students,” Edberg said. “We meet once a week.”

He added that the Institute has varied in size over the years but this year he had some real “firecrackers” in his club that sparked interest and were very active.

The Institute discusses the latest technology and information coming from astronomy studies.

“We bounce information back and forth on the latest discoveries as well as what we have learned in the past,” Edberg said.

Ninth grader Evan Chersi, a member of the Institute, said that this is a great time to be an astronomer with all the new discoveries especially with the recent announcement from JPL of a search for Earth-like planets.

“I like looking for distant galaxies,” Chersi said.

He added that this type of Institute was valuable because he is interested in making astronomy a career.

Nisha Chatterjee, a high school junior, is not certain she wants a career as a veterinarian, but is grateful for the chance to work as an intern at the La Cañada Pet Clinic.

“I get to follow the doctor around. I take the dogs for a walk, clean up and have got to take out stitches,” Chatterjee said.

She said her interest in animals began at home with her own pets but wanted the experience of working with a veterinarian.

“My favorite part is how Dr. Woody Walker interacts with the patients,” Chatterjee said.

She has been working as an intern at the hospital since October and will continue to the end of the school year. She would like to continue with the intern, but said she will have to step aside.

“Next year it will be someone else's turn to intern,” she said.

Near the entrance of the cafeteria, a display of colorful cloth grocery bags greeted visitors. The bags are the brainchild of Nellie Lottman, who is helping the school's Green Club raise money for solar panels for the school.

“We also do all the recycling for the school,” said president of the club, Tommy Woods.

The Green Club meets on the campus during school hours.

“Our goal is to raise awareness with students and within our community on environmental [issues],” Woods said.

He said that the concern of the environment including Global Warming is at times overwhelming. The club attempts to keep the concerns locally.

“Think global, act local,” Woods said.

The club is fundraising through the rainforest run, recycling and other events to buy solar panels to help with their school's utility bills and the environment. Anyone who would like to donate or has questions can email

Many of the Institutes dealt with medical issues. Senior Doug Riechel presented one controversial subject concerning stem cell research.

“This research has political and legal [over tones],” he said. “The medical [researchers] haven't figured out yet how to use stem cells. A lot of things need to happen before it can be [viable].”

Some of the Institutes presentations were inspired by personal motives. The Cancer and Second Hand Smoke presentation educated visitors on the dangers of second hand smoke.

“My dad is a smoker and I wanted to show him this,” said Jonathan Gevorkian.

Arvin Soorenian and Sam Badie joined Gevorkian in their research into new studies on the subject.

“If you are a smoker, that smoke affects all of us,” Soorenian said.

But the students said they felt it was important to continue to inform others, especially since many in their families smoked.

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