Teacher Wins Grant

DePina plans to take his own field trip to the Cape Verde Islands

By Steve Macone

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” St. Augustine said.

If that’s the case, then Stoughton resident Sam DePina has an entire summer worth of Barnes and Noble gift certificates to cash in.

DePina is one of 47 teachers in the Boston Public Schools who won a Fund For Teachers grant for summer travel and study form the Boston Plan for Excellence, a local education foundation. Now in its second year, the program has awarded $172,500 in grants for teachers to visit 24 foreign countries and more than 20 states.

DePina, who is second generation Cape Verdean and speaks the language, plans to travel to the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa.

In addition to airfare and expenses, the grant will allow DePina to purchase artifacts and materials to use in the classroom.

“I love working with children. I hope by studying abroad I can make a link with something they’re interested in,” DePina said.

DePina teaches math and is the dean of students at Health Careers Academy, a small high school on the Northeastern University campus for students with an interest in healthcare professions. The school is going on its 10th year and has about 200 students.

“We were looking for candidates who tied what they were doing in the summer to what they’d do in the fall. Sam clearly does that. Many of the families of his students came from other countries,” said Mary Ann Cohen of the Boston Plan for Excellence.

DePina will explore what opportunities exist for US-trained health professionals to return to work in their home country, starting with the Cape Verde islands.

Ninety percent of the students at the school have cultural backgrounds from other countries, DePina said.

DePina will gauge the island’s future employment needs and hiring processes.

“We’re looking to build partnerships with people form overseas,” he said.

During August, he will interview doctors, visit hospitals, meet with the mayor to the capital city of Praia and public officials and gather statistics for a data analysis lesson he will teach this fall.

“I’m bringing that [information] back so we can build it into our curriculum and make it interdisciplinary,’ DePina said. “Part of what we’re trying to do is build experiential learning.”

DePina, who grew up in Dorchester, is president of the Cape Verdean Community/Uniting Neighbors In Developing Ourselves organization in Roxbury. With this group, DePina has already visited the islands.

“Last summer we took a group to play in basketball tournaments and held clinics for the younger kids,” he said.

DePina also helped found the Diamond Educators a mentoring and tutoring program. And he is on the board of directors at the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporations, which assists in getting loans for small businesses, redeveloping property and improving neighborhoods.