The countdown clock on the National Youth Science Foundation’s Web site is running, listing the days, hours, minutes and seconds until its annual summer Youth Science Camp begins.

Set in the West Virginia wilderness, the camp boasts science and mathematics studies and corresponding activities for a select pool of students who will participate in a four-week intensive program to learn about potential career paths after high school.

Just two high school seniors from each state are chosen to attend the all-expense paid outing (at a cost of about $5,000 per student), and Maine’s representatives this summer will be Katherine Spring, 18, of Wells, and Caroline Suresh, 15, of Naples.

They were recommended by Gov. John Baldacci’s office after completing a competitive application process.

Spring’s big adventure began three years ago, when she left the comforts of home to attend the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone. The state-funded public high school offers a layout and course of study that is more akin to a college campus.

Student attendance is based on academic merit and open to just 142 students from around the state who excel in science and mathematics and who endeavor to pursue a more challenging course of study. Spring lives in the school’s dormitory and is bused home once a month to visit family and enjoy a home-cooked meal.

Her parents, Robert and Kimberly Spring, say their daughter has always liked a challenge.

“Katherine is a motivated student and has grown tremendously,” said Robert. “(Receiving this award) is just another big adventure for her, and I have no doubt this will be a great experience for her.”

Sharon Daigle-Gerrish, the school’s public relations and marketing director, was not surprised to learn about Katherine’s award.

“I can see how Katherine met the criteria to be accepted,” said Daigle-Gerrish. “It was based on merit, and this kid is an all-around outstanding student.”

Suresh also is considered a stand-out student among her Lake Region High School peers. At age 15, she is a senior enrolled in Advanced Placement courses in biology, English, calculus and honors chemistry. Suresh said she skipped both second and seventh grade because of her advanced comprehension of the curriculum for her age group.

She’s not intimidated by interaction with older students, and is involved in such sports as soccer, basketball and track.

“I love sports, but I’m not the best player on the team,” said Suresh. “What I am good at is being a team player.”

Lake Region AP biology teacher and student advisor Beth Chagrasulis has worked with Suresh as a student and a member of various clubs, including the National Honor Society, of which Suresh is treasurer. Chagrasulis praised Suresh’s rigorous and impeccable work ethic.

“She is an active participant in her education, and her intensity and desire to learn make her stand out as one of the best students I have encountered in my teaching career,” Chagrasulis said in an e-mail.

Last year, Suresh attended Dirigo Girls State, and she is a three-year participant (and 2010 president of) the Academic WorldQuest competition team that recently won the state title for their knowledge of the history, geography, culture and current affairs of different countries from around the world.

The team will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to compete at the national level.

The camperships slots provide an appropriate capstone to Spring’s and Suresh’s high school studies as they transition to college.

Spring is considering pursuing a career in chemistry or veterinary medicine. She recently interned at Branch Equine Vetinary Services in Wells as part of her off-campus studies.

“I was pretty excited to be selected for this camp,” she said. “We will hear speakers from different science professions who will talk about what they do every day, giving us a better understanding of their work. And, it’s a great networking opportunity to meet others.”

Suresh’s parents, Abraham and Viji Suresh, say their daughter would love to go into a bio-medical research field and also has a taste for politics.

“Caroline is a very smart kid,” said her mother. “She works hard and is very outgoing. She was so excited when she found out she was chosen to go to this camp.”

“Science is my favorite subject,” said Caroline Suresh. “I’m so excited to be able to spend a whole month outside learning more about nature and hearing the lectures.”

The camp begins June 29, featuring 30 lecturers from varied fields of science and an opportunity for students to do exploratory research in specialized areas. The work will be punctuated by traditional outdoor activities such as backpacking, rock climbing and kayaking that take advantage of the mountain setting in the Monongahela National Forest.

Students also will travel to Washington, D.C. for three days of touring and meeting with individuals who help shape science policy.

“It’s an eclectic blend of activities,” said camp executive director Andrew Blackwood. “These individuals represent the top two percent of science students from their state. We know they will be successful in (their future endeavors) but we want to give them that extra push.

For more information about Maine School of Science and Mathematics go to www.mssm.org.

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

[email protected]