Araceli Hernandez could have been playing video games, swimming or sleeping in over summer break, but instead she was doing math. And she’s happy about it.
Hernandez took part in one of three summer programs on campus developed by UC Merced’s Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP) with funding from U.S. Department of Education Trio grants aimed at increasing the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their postsecondary education.
The Bridging the Gap to Mathematics academy provided incoming ninth-grade students with four-weeks of intensive math instruction by local high school teachers.
“When we saw the low number of kids getting threes or higher on the AP Calculus exam, we realized we needed to do some form of intervention,” Assistant Director for the Center for Educational Partnerships Ismael Serrano said. “We’re front-loading the students in math so they can be successful in high school. The end goal is to catch them younger so they are better prepared.”
Hernandez’s motivation for attending the program was to be better prepared for high school in a subject she finds tough.
“I really have a difficult time with math. This program has helped with my confidence,” said Hernandez, who attends Le Grand High School. “I feel I would have regretted it if I hadn’t come.”
CEP expanded its long-standing partnership with Le Grand Union School District and partnered with Merced Union High School District and Delhi Unified School District to bring students a college-going experience. More than 100 students from the Delhi, Le Grand, Merced and Planada have participated in the math academy in the past two summers — of those, 80 attended this year.
Cesar Angel, a ninth grader from Plainsburg, said it was worth getting up early each morning to take a bus and spend six hours in the classroom.
“I was struggling in math and they made it fun,” Angel said. “The transition from middle school is already a huge change, so being on the UC Merced campus really helps.”
Boosting the College-Going Rate
More than 100 students from Sunnyside High School and Hoover High School in the Fresno Unified School District and 30 from Orosi High School participated in two distinct federally funded programs.
CEP’s Upward Bound Academy ran from June 12 to July 20. During the first five weeks, participants received instruction in math, science, English composition, Spanish and enrichment electives Monday through Thursday at UC Merced’s Fresno Center. On Fridays, the students visited community college and university campuses to learn about admissions requirements and support programs.
The final week of the academy, the students lived in a UC Merced residence hall and took enrichment courses. Students engaged in workshops including a model United Nations simulation, College Shark Tank where students competed for a chance to earn college scholarships, and workshops on financial literacy, scholarships and more.
The Upward Bound Math and Science Program’s inaugural Residential Summer Academy ran from June 10 to July 20 at UC Merced. Ninth- through 12th-grade Orosi High School students received math, science, foreign language and English composition instruction. The students visited other college campuses and industries that focus on math and science majors and careers. CEP also teamed up with NatureBridge to provide students several days in Yosemite National Park to learn about science in nature, watersheds and more.
The objective is for them to see themselves doing something similar in the future if they go to college. And learn that science is fun!
During both Upward Bound programs, a group called Science, Technology and Art for Youth (STAY) demonstrated hands-on STEM workshops in topics including robotics, bioengineering, archaeology and ecology.
STAY was founded by UC Merced Environmental Systems Ph.D. student Angel Fernandez Bou and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Ph.D. student Jose Luis Susa Rincon, with the help of other graduate students, to help motivate K-12 students to pursue higher education.
“CEP and STAY share a common interest in doing what’s the best for the kids,” Fernandez Bou said. “Our goal is to motivate children and teenagers to pursue higher education.”
Lorenzo Booth, who received his master’s degree in Environmental Systems from UC Merced in May and begins working toward his doctoral degree this fall, teaches the robotics workshop.
“When I was younger, I lived in Southern California and used to go to the California Science Center and that is what exposed me to engineering — model rockets, egg drops and all those things,” Booth said. “Now I am on the other side of it — and it’s cool.”
The group has worked with hundreds of students since 2016, even teaching workshops abroad.
“We focus on hands-on activities so the kids can learn from their own experience,” Bou said. “We show them how to do an advanced scientific tasks and they do it under our supervision. The objective is for them to see themselves doing something similar in the future if they go to college. And learn that science is fun!”