Cassandra Sanders is a married mother of one, who works in the hotel industry. Her husband, Grady, has attended several of the CASE workshops along with her. The Sanders live in Camden, NJ, and heard about CASE through their daughter's school, LEAP Academy University Charter School. LEAP is a K-12 charter school, with an emphasis on math and science education, affiliated with Rutgers University. Cassandra was an ambassador for the first year of CASE, but left during the second year, because of her job commitments in the hotel industry. She then came back to CASE as an ambassador for year three. In year four, Cassandra's daughter Kennedy left LEAP Academy and went to Friends School in New Jersey. Cassandra enjoyed the CASE program so much that she stayed on as an ambassador in year four often bringing Kennedy along to watch.

Takeaway message from Cassandra Sanders:

It's one of the few things I do for myself that's totally for myself and enriches me. I don't do many personal things because I do work and I have a kid, and I don't do exercise or those other fun things people do, but I'm going to do the CASE program because that's a personal reward. It's one of the few things that I've done for a couple years that made me feel happy.

Cassandra heard of the CASE ambassador program through a friend who was active at her daughter's school. For Cassandra, CASE sounded like an interesting opportunity, as well as a chance to give back to the community.

[My friend Sandra said] "There's another program that we want to do, I think it's with The Franklin Institute; it's CASE. We're going to do some great training, and we're going to go to their museums and stuff," and I had thought that seemed fascinating for quite a few reasons. We had already been to the museums...so it...would be really interesting to start there.

I felt like we'd try out more of the museums and learn different things. I thought it was great to take that back to the community especially in Camden, because I'm not sure how many people knew about coming over here and doing exciting things with their children and that the cost wouldn't be an issue. I felt I could be helpful with the projects and stuff, and I thought it would be fun.

Once she got involved, Cassandra discovered that CASE was a terrific setting for a person who enjoys learning, working with people, and sharing knowledge.

I think you have to be outgoing, I think you have to be observant—not just learning the things and the programs, but you also you have to work around different people...I've done training before in different aspects, but I've just gained so much knowledge through the CASE program. The workshops were amazing and they kind of built. The Zoo is always fun and exciting, the Aquarium is great, but the last program we did at the Natural Science Museum was just fantastic. [For example, the workshop on] rocks was fun, the water was fun. My daughter Kennedy and I had great experiences, and being around the property, it's almost like you're feeling at home when you're here at the museum.

Cassandra says that her feelings about science and math have become more positive since starting as a member of the CASE program. She has wonderful memories of CASE events, staff, and families.

[Before CASE], Kennedy and I would buy the membership, and we'd come to the exhibits. We would come there, maybe every month or six weeks, to go and see and to learn stuff, to put her on the same level as I am, and interest her in science and math as a well-rounded person. But with CASE I'm sure kids went back to their science class and asked questions...but they now knew something and everybody else is looking around wondering, "Wow, what's an invertebrate?" That had to be really fun, you know. [Some of my best memories are] from the graduation from three years ago. We were at the primate zoo and we had the gorillas in the back, but there was this guy with this instrument playing along at the same time, and I thought that was fascinating.

I think the animals and the fish were fun. Ruth from the Aquarium took us up to see the sharks from the top. I'm sure some people could do that anyway, but we have never done that sort of thing. I think it's a learning experience, too. When it was all adults it was wonderful, but I think that when students came in, that was a different learning experience for me.

There were adorable kids. There's one little boy, and he always reminds me of a Manx cat, with little cat eyes. He was like this peewee, you know, in diapers and stuff, and now he can sit there and answer questions. Kids like him still remember those sorts of things. We will be someplace and they'll be like, "Oh, that's Kennedy's mom—she taught CASE," so you can see them growing. One mom with a little boy and little girl first brought them, and then she brought her mom, and then she brought her friend. So it was a community—it really was.

Cassandra feels that learning begins during the CASE workshops. Over time, though, family participants begin to feel a sense of connection with the PISEC museums and continue their learning by visiting on their own.

I love visiting the [museums] during the year; they don't just learn when they're in a CASE workshop; they go back out and see something and think of what we've done...They're going to come back here, and they're going to walk through the [Giant Heart at The Franklin Institute]. We kind of understand [science] a little bit better. You compare or connect, and you have a bit more knowledge when you do it.

Today, Cassandra and her daughter have found ways to extend science and math discovery into their daily lives. They are fans of science-based television and science websites.

Both of us are into it, because of the Discovery Channel, watching fun things like "Myth Busters." After [completing the CASE Kitchen Chemistry workshop], we would always talk about how when you make cookies you measure stuff, then you're going to put stuff together, and you're going to mix some chemistry. Science and math are important, even if you go into something that's literature-related. It's good to be well rounded. We need math; we need science.

We'd always watch a lot of science programs on Animal Planet, and my daughter wants to be a vet. I told her, "If you're going to be a vet, you're going to have to learn chemistry in college, and physics and math." You need to start them now so they finish up later.

Maybe if we weren't interested in the science and we didn't go to the museums, maybe we would not have watched the Discovery Channel. Maybe we wouldn't watch the Science Channel as much.

Even now that her daughter is no longer at the school that is part of PISEC, Cassandra has decided to stay involved.

It's worth my personal time; it makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. You know if I left the industry...the hotel, I'd probably love to teach...It makes me feel better. That year I didn't do it was horrible for me—seriously.

You know, when you raise a child, you need a much bigger community; to take everybody in a classroom once a month and to teach them about science that really is going to enrich their lives.

[When we went on a whale watch with the Aquarium] we were so close and there were so many of them they could be touched. That was the most amazing thing I have seen, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.


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