High school students gain college-level experience this summer

June 24, 2019

Public Relations

There are a variety of ways for high school students to get a leg-up on the competition academically at Palo Alto College. Between early college high schools, dual credit partnerships, and three different TRIO programs, there are many options for students looking for that early college exposure.

This summer, nearly 90 students in the TRIO Upward Bound Math-Science (UBMS) program at East Central High School are participating in a six-week summer camp at Palo Alto College. For two weeks in June, about 30 East Central students will be selected to travel to the University of Incarnate Word (UIW) to work on various research projects in chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering. Ten of those students will be selected to stay behind to continue working on group projects into the afternoon.

"These programs are essential because our children are our future," said Dafney Bell, TRIO UBMS project director. "And these are exceptional children, to take on more school work during a summer when they could be sleeping in, it's tough."

The camp is hosted by the College's TRIO UBMS program and East Central students will dive into a variety of STEM-related activities like video game design, wind energy, engineering design, and more. Additionally, East Central seniors and recent graduates are able to take a college-level summer course at no cost.

During UIW's summer research projects, students will attend morning and afternoon lab sessions, each with different topics that provide students opportunities to analyze and apply the skills necessary to complete experiments. Some of the research topics include analysis of light and its application to physics and astronomy; extracting DNA and screening various foods to determine whether they have been genetically modified; and experimenting on samples to simulate potential exposure to a virus.

The 10 students selected to stay for the afternoon sessions will be judged for their work in three categories: overall presentation, overall research, and their research poster. At the annual end-of-camp banquet, one group will be selected as the winner for each category and be awarded a trophy, but all participants will receive a certificate and medal. These students will also be awarded a $300 stipend through a STEM supplemental grant.

Aria Metcalf and Amagine Miranda are two recent East Central graduates attending the UBMS camps for the second summer in a row. Last summer, they were selected for the research project portion of the camp at UIW.

"I've always been fond of math and science," said Miranda. "When I heard about the [TRIO] program, I knew it would be a great idea for my future. We're getting college-level experience before we even start our college careers."

Miranda and Metcalf worked on cancer cell research last summer at UIW and won first place for their presentation of their research and first place overall for their work. Because they both just graduated from East Central High School, they aren't eligible to attend the UIW research this summer, but they are grateful for the opportunities they've been given thus far.

"Not many students do that [UIW research] in high school. I'm really grateful for it," said Metcalf. "Only a few students were selected for it... 10 of us out of the whole TRIO program."

Bell said TRIO programs like UBMS are extremely valuable to students who might be first-generation college students. Some of these students might not have the guidance or advice to see what kind a day in the life of STEM professionals would be like.

"These students are getting a look at what they're going to have next year, and it teaches them to think on a higher level," said Bell. "Whether they know it or not, they're already increasing their chances of getting into graduate school because of this research."

For more information on TRIO UBMS, dual credit, or early college high school programs, please visit alamo.edu/pac/hsp.