George Parris began his involvement with PISEC programs during the FEST project. Encouraged by family and staff members, he took increasing leadership, finally serving as a CASE ambassador. George, his mother, and his daughter have all grown through PISEC. Today, George is continuing in a leadership role with CLUES and his daughter anticipates studying science in school.

Years ago, at his mother's suggestion, George began dropping in on an occasional PISEC event. Over time, both his interest and his commitment grew. George's daughter, Erica, has become very engaged in science through PISEC, and her grades in science have improved dramatically.

Takeaway Message from George Parris:

Erica, my daughter, she was doing average, or maybe a little bit less than average, in science. Now, for the last two years, she has straight A's in science. And then she goes, "Daddy, I could be a scientist!"

George's interest in PISEC started with a tentative involvement in FEST.

I went to a few FEST events. Not as many as with CASE, but I went to a few, and that's what piqued my interest.

There are a lot of things you can learn, that your family can learn. I didn't think I was going to stay that long. It is fun. It is fun, I love what I do, and it helped my family so much.

So, it really helped my family out a lot and got us closer to going places and doing activities, going to museums. Our interests are just different now. And Erica—when it rains, she wants to know where the water goes, how the evaporation process [works]. And they like to tell their girlfriends. Sometimes they come and play and I hear her explaining things to the kids.

It's just the experience of seeing my kids who had no interest when I was talking. She'd be whining and everything was just her. It's a whole change...I'm just watching it develop. She needs this, and I'm so glad that somebody sponsored this. Keep this going.

Her grades have improved, and now she's looking with me at National Geographic on TV. The television is programmed for the Discovery Channel. This is every day. We sometimes do the Aviation [activity] where we have to make the planes fly. In the bathtub, we do the sink and float.

She's just so interested now. She's curious. She's so curious about things. And my wife Kim! Kim didn't want to go in the water. I wanted to take a cruise, or my wife did, [but] she was scared of water.

Ever since we did the sink and float activities, and then went to the museum, she said these ships are pretty much safe—I mean the buoyancy. She's ready to go on a cruise now. She feels as though it's not just going to sink in that big water.

It was George's mom, Loretta Ferguson, who introduced George and her grandchildren to PISEC.

My mom took us to a couple events. I remember going to The Franklin Institute. There was the camaraderie of the group that made me think, "These people seem like fun. They're not stuck up. Even though they know things, they're real friendly. This might be something I can get into." And I was just thinking...about me. I didn't know it would affect my family like it has.

Some of our best experiences were the sink and float workshop and the flying workshop. That was fun—especially the part where we had to get the balloons on a rope.

We learned how to increase the velocity of the balloon. It was another way of doing it without using gas. It was fun for me personally. And it was definitely fun for me to watch the kids making the plane, and to see whose plane can go the furthest. It was a competition. People would just make an extra crease in their paper, just to see if it would fly. It was just the dynamics. They had learned from their workshop. I didn't know what I was doing when I made them before. I just was copying from people. I didn't know the facts of it. The wing needed this in the back, the flap! All these parts of the plane were important. Well, when I did it at the...The Franklin Institute, it made my plane fly further. And I thought, "That's the reason why we have to make a flap, so that the air can just flow smoothly."

For George, watching his daughter Erica blossom was especially rewarding.

Just watching her wanting to learn, and wanting to compete, even [with] the older kids. Trying to answer questions, she's volunteering to do things and then coming home and doing it.

PISEC has been a life-changing experience; it has helped George "crack the code" behind math and science and it has given him the incentive to give back to his community.

I've learned to be patient more. I learned that science, just like math, is a universal code. Now I'm so curious, wanting to know about anything. Why is it raining? Where does the water go? I've been watching a lot of the Discovery Channel since I joined CASE. And I'm going to give back. Since I've been with CASE I'm fulfilled by giving back to these kids. My mom always raised me to give back. This kind of giving I need for my personal enrichment. I could be doing other things. But, this gives me a chance to just give back to my church. This is helping other people and their families. That's why when kids ask me something, if I don't know, I try to figure out how to get the answer for them. I tell them, "I'm not sure of that, but I will find out," and I get back to them. Sometimes a kid would ask me a question. I didn't know it. And I remember specifically getting their number and calling them back, and asking them, "Remember that question?" And I would never take time to do something like that before. So, CASE has been tremendous in my life.

George feels he owes his involvement in PISEC to the influence of his mother and a family friend. As a result of following their lead he has gained skills, and confidence.

Until they sat down and said to me, "This is a wonderful chance to give back. They don't have much money, so don't even worry about the money, but if you start it, you have to have a commitment." I promised her that I would complete it. And by goodness, it's the best dang choice I ever made in my life.

I knew I could learn the science behind the workshops, but to tell somebody else about it and then explain to them so that they can understand took another skill I had to learn. I took a leadership workshop for a month. That was a month of good, solid training. Because speaking in front of people, oh no. But, those exercises that you told us in the beginning—ice-breakers—did [it].

George is now spreading the word about PISEC and bringing in new participants.

As a matter of fact, I've asked my sister. She became involved because of me. I said, "Alletta, you need to check out these things. These are some workshops that you would enjoy." At that time in her life, she was in a wheelchair. She needed something to keep her mind off of what she was going through physically. She came to one of the workshops, and, she said to me, "George, I can do this."

When she went to the first workshop, it was with Jim. And Jim is one of the best. Jim did the workshop on the heart. And my sister was in the scooter, and there's that race you can do where you draw a picture of the heart, then you've got to go through the a relay race. And my sister was the bomb. She had so much fun in her little scooter—she went and backed it up, and did [it] all. Everybody didn't pay attention to how she was—she couldn't run and she was in a wheelchair; they didn't make fun of her. People were just real people. Now she's spreading the word! You know we have just been blessed to have good people at CASE.

The science George and his wife have learned changed the couple's attitude toward travel. Understanding the science behind flight and buoyancy has alleviated their anxieties—and allowed them to plan a cruise.

My wife likes to control everything in her life. Like the sky ride and the rope is the only thing holding you up there. She would not get on it because she didn't understand there's laws you know, laws of gravity, laws of physics. Now, she does. She understands, "Okay, I just won't go in the ocean and sink even though a storm might come." She understands that because of the workshops, because of the sink or float workshop. There [are] so many things that we're doing now because of science, because she's been involved. It's not just somebody telling you, lecturing you. [In] our workshops people get involved.

Before, we used to go to a movie or something, alright, or go out to eat. But now, we have workshops. My wife works almost 10 hours a day. But, workshops sometimes are at nighttime and she still comes to our workshops.

PISEC has helped George find a purpose and an active way of engaging in the wider community. As a result of his involvement in the program, he feels he has a gift to share.

I'm going because, first of all, I'm going to make sure that my family members can get in without any trouble. Then, I'm going for me. I want to see things that I didn't see. I heard you have the Star Trek exhibit. I'm just going there because I like going there. There's something to do now besides sit in the house and watch television.

Before PISEC I'd say, "Give me a nice T.V. movie and cable, and I'm fine." Now, I put the remote down and get on out of here! It's just something that I can do. I got a gift, man, I got a skill. Now I can explain to somebody else.

We have a lot of get-togethers on different holidays. And at the houses, we play games, but along with the games, my wife and I, we come up with stuff we learned from The Franklin Institute. This is what I say: Anybody who has a chance, just to come to a PISEC [program] or come to a museum, or, come to a workshop of ours—it'll be a life-changing experience.