Young researcher Gabrielle Augustin on her way to D.C.


Gabrielle Augustin, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy from Baldwin, is one of 11 students at the Hempstead school who have been invited to present their research at the 2023 Association for Psychological Science Convention May 25-28 in Washington, D.C.

Augustin, 17, the senior class president, an officer in the Black Student Union and a mentor to freshman and sophomores, was asked to share her research project on racial inequity in the educational system, titled “Barriers to Opportunities: The Effects of Non-Representation on the Education of Minority Students,” alongside undergraduate and graduate students as well as professional researchers at the annual forum.

Stephen Sullivan, Sacred Heart’s research director, said the students, juniors and seniors, submitted summaries of their research to the association on Dec. 15, and were notified that they had been selected to participate in the convention late last month.

The students will travel by Amtrak to Washington, Sullivan said, where they will make their presentations at the Washington Hilton on May 25. On May 26, Augustin and her classmates will spend the day touring national monuments, and the following day they will gather to watch other researchers make their presentations at the convention, before returning home.

The convention, Sullivan explained, has a “read blindly” policy, meaning that the judges who will examine the research will not know whether they are reading the work of a high school student or a university postgraduate student. A total of 49 Sacred Heart students have been invited to the convention since the school’s research department connected with the Association for Psychological Science in 2019, he added.

Of Augustin, Sullivan said, “I think her picture can be found next to the word ‘leader’ in Webster’s Dictionary.” 

She will present her research alongside classmates including Cara Carbone, of Amityville, who project is entitled, “The Presence of Stigma on Learning Disabilities in Female-Adolescents in a Single-Sex Environment,” and Maddie Graham, of Freeport, who authored, “Exploring Educators’ and Students’ Definitions of Happiness in Pre- and Post-Pandemic America.”

Augustin said she conducted a behavioral science project for her AP Research class focusing on the effects of low representation and discrimination in school on the education of under-represented and minority students. 

An excerpt from her study’s abstract reads, “This study examines participants’ views on how their teachers and their schools treat them. Furthermore, it will analyze whether these views are related to non-representation of underrepresented minorities in the faculty and student body.”

“Some people look down on others for not having a good education, which you need to get into your desired career field,” Augustin said. “In recent history, many minorities have faced discrimination nationwide, including in the school system. As a black student, I was motivated to understand how minority students today perceive that school system today.”

She began her research, she said, last summer, when she prepared a survey that was distributed at Sacred Heart; Kellenberg Memorial High School, in Uniondale; and Trumbull High School, in Connecticut, where a friend of Augustin’s attends school. More than 80 white and minority students from the three schools were asked how they perceived issues of equity, diversity, and grade progress.

Augustin compared the results of white and minority-identifying students, and found that minority students at all three schools felt they were given less attention and resources than their white classmates, which reduced their motivation to learn. 

Augustin, who plans to go to medical school and eventually become a cardiothoracic surgeon, said she has seen the same racial disparities in the health care system that are found in the education system. The lack of minority representation and participation in health care, she said, can be just as jarring for minority patients as it is for minority students in schools.

Her interest in the medical field, Augustin said, was sparked when she interned at Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow, during her sophomore and junior years, and came to the conclusion that there was a need for more minority doctors. She added that she planned to study biology as an undergrad before moving on to medical school.