Academy Class of 2022: Meet Kristina and Collin

To our Gloucester Biotechnology Academy Friends and Supporters:

Last month, 18 young people – the Academy Class of 2022 – began their journey toward careers in the life science industry. By enrolling in the Academy, they have taken a leap of faith that, with skill training and mentorship, they can succeed. 

Come graduation next June, the students walking across the stage will be lightyears from where they are today. On the first day of the new school year, students arrive cautiously optimistic as they pass through the Academy glass doors. They peer into the lab, seeing DNA sequencing machines and lab benches full of supplies, others seek a spot to drop their bag and jacket, making themselves at home. Then, they all take a seat for the first time at the Academy lab bench.

Most are nervous and a little fidgety. Some are unsure they belong. There is worry. But there’s also excitement, wide-eyed curiosity, and the enthusiastic chatter of friendships in the making. My fellow teachers and I take this all in because we know the students’ journeys are just beginning. 

Our student body this year comes with a range of previous experience: restaurant and supermarket workers; a medical assistant and animal shelter employee; and even a whale watch tour guide just to name a few. This year 62% of students identify as female, an encouraging trend as GMGI works to diversify STEM. As you’ll see in the profiles of Kristina and Collin, we have an incredible group that makes up the Class of 2022, and I hope at some point you have the opportunity to hear from them all. 

None of this would be possible without the support of donors and friends. You make the incredible journeys of our students possible. From all of us at the Academy and GMGI, you have our deepest thanks. 

Warm regards,

– John Doyle, Education Director

Kristina Bandoni, 28, Gloucester 
 “Since graduating from Salve Regina University with a degree in Environmental Science in 2016, I’ve spent my time traveling and working at a local animal shelter. I enjoyed my job, but I found myself feeling a little unfulfilled and like I wanted to pursue something different. A friend told me about the Academy, and it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only try something new, but to have one-on-one access to such accomplished instructors that are willing to help a newcomer. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I took a chance and applied. 

Deep down, I always knew I could do anything that I put my heart in to, but I never imagined it would be something like this. All the experiments and lessons have been so interesting, and the teaching style of John, Steve, Che and Joe has made the program feel accessible, even to someone like me. I can’t believe how much I’ve already learned and how confident I am in working in the lab. When I do struggle with something, like math, the instructors are always willing to stay after to make that I understand the concepts, pushing me to be the best I can be. It’s a very accepting and welcoming environment at the Academy, which I think everyone benefits from. I hope to move forward in the biotech field so that one day I can become a mentor for people new to the field, just like I’m getting at the Academy now.

This program has totally changed my view of the future. I always knew I had the potential to do big things, but I felt as if I had fallen off track and got stuck in a routine of needing to pay the bills. I wanted to reach for more and to work in a field that I was passionate about, but I didn’t really know how to go about finding the right options. After hearing about this program, I felt hopeful and like I was back on track.”

Collin King, 21, Peabody
 “I heard about the Academy through a family member, while I was taking classes to be an HVAC tech. The job I was working didn’t have any real possibility of advancement, so the Academy sounded like a great opportunity. The chance to bring some good into the world, not just a way to make money, excited me and was a big reason on why I wanted to apply. 

On the first day of class, I was surprised at the variety of students. Everyone was incredibly nice and helpful, but there was a wide range of characters. I think I was expecting the program to be filled with a bunch of stereotypical ‘science-types’. Instead, it’s a group of us who are interested in science and looking for a way to make it a career. 

I’m usually disorganized and messy, so I knew going in that the note-taking and organization would be a challenge. Talking in front of the class is also a big source of anxiety for me. Recently, I had to give a presentation about the results of a DNA extraction we just preformed, and I was very nervous. But I asked my classmates and friends for help practicing and reviewing my slides, and the presentation went great.

What I like best about the program is how it feels. When we are in the lab, it really feels like we are working a real job rather than being in a classroom. During my HVAC classes, it never really felt like what it would be like in real-life.  Here, you get held to the standards you would be held to in a real lab. 

Just a few months ago, I figured I was going to be installing HVAC equipment as career, but now I know I have better options. I don’t know exactly where I want to work yet, but I know it’s in a lab!”

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