When Damaso Gallman started as a CASE ambassador with the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, he was only fourteen years old. While his family never got involved with the program, he persevered and became an exciting, engaging presenter. Damaso is now at Philadelphia Community College and working with the city's prestigious Mural Arts Program.

Takeaway message from Damaso Gallman:

First I was weird. I didn't know what I was doing. After awhile I started presenting, and people started seeing me open up. Basically I learned how to befriend people, teach people.

Damaso Gallman joined CASE as a science ambassador to fill time over summer vacation when he was 14 years old, but found that the experience offered much more than he had anticipated.

A random person from my old job told me about this program, and 'cause I had nothing to do this summer, I joined, and I kind of liked it. I like the workshops, the atmosphere. I liked the kids and the teaching...I just like being in front of a crowd.

If I were to describe the program to friends, I'd say, "Basically, use the opportunity to teach, to fill the teacher's shoes." But there's more to it. There are the different environments you're in, different museums. I go because some of the stuff you learn here, you already learned in high school, so basically, you can change to be a little smarter than the teacher!

Damaso has stayed involved with CASE despite the fact that his family is not involved in the program.

In my family, I have my brother and my mother. They don't participate; they are always busy. I only see them at nighttime, when we're at the house. My brother's interested in culinary arts&#/51;he's into cooking, and my mother, she's more of the job person; she's working at the naval base. My mom keeps saying, "Do what you got to do." So I keep myself occupied.

Damaso has used his own creative ideas to make CASE activities fun for families and to ensure that kids and adults alike learn from his presentations. His innovations have brought in new families and kept regulars coming back for more.

I give little quizzes at the end to make sure they're paying attention. And sometimes I make up my own workshop, my own activity. Like at the end of the bubble-making activity, I got them in groups and challenged them to see who made the biggest bubble. That's my time to come up with ideas.

One of the workshops was mostly about facts, so I switched things around a bit to make it more like an activity. The workshops that were hands-on activities were very successful because the participants learned a lot. Some people became curious about the subject and wanted to know more. And new people came because of the activities we were doing.

Damaso enjoyed creating opportunities for people to discover something new about science. The key, he found, was in making science accessible, exciting, and relevant.

I enjoyed presenting activities that amaze the kids. They'll second-guess themselves and be like, "Oh, I was right or wrong." Or, like, "I learned something new." I liked presenting the dinosaur workshop at The Academy of Natural Sciences, but instead of just presenting facts, I kind of switched it around because I knew they were bored. I asked them, what is an archaeologist, and entomologist; changed things around to make it more interesting.

In addition to building a better understanding of science, Damaso gained new skills and confidence in his abilities as a presenter and leader.

To be a good ambassador, you need to collect your resources, be comfortable, be relaxing a little bit, twisting something around, and friendly. Entertain them for a couple of minutes.

You also need organization and also research. Because some of the stuff they do give you, when you do use it, you find you need to make it more interesting. And you never know what question they might get you with. So you need to know where to find teaching resources.

When he started with PISEC, Damaso did not know what to expect. Now, though, he feels that the program has had a positive impact on him—and he would recommend it to peers.

I didn't really have any expectations. But whatever came with it, I was like, "I got it." I found I enjoyed teaching, really, because I understand what it takes to make a lesson and all of that. You have to do all that process—it's a lot. Like, kids at certain levels, how you have to put in certain new words, and stuff like that.

PISEC is a great program. I would recommend it to somebody to do this, especially fourteen-year-olds, fifteen, sixteen. It's an after school program, and at a young age it's great to get to a new atmosphere, start to get stuff. And it's good to start earlier than later. So you understand what you all need.


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