Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Students Get Set for STEM Careers at Houston PREP Summer Program

It is no secret that the modern-day technological revolution is changing the U.S. and global work force entirely. With once science fiction ideas now marketable realities, professionals in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are needed more than ever. 

There are a lot of uncertainties about what the future of STEM industries will look like, but we can be sure that Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) students will be active professionals in them.

On July 9, a group of Houston-area students, including 60 from SBISD, met in the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) auditorium to begin Engineering Day at Houston PREP.

Amidst the crowd was Westchester Academy for International Studies (WAIS) sophomore Ezekiel Coleman, a second year student in the now 25-year-old program.

Coleman developed an interest for engineering at Spring Forest Middle School that grew when he entered WAIS; after attending Houston PREP last summer, he knew it was the field for him.

“Houston PREP has definitely strengthened my interest in engineering and been a great program to be a part of,” Coleman said.

The aspiring young engineer notes that prior to the Houston PREP program he didn’t know much about the vast amount of available careers in STEM fields.

“This opportunity has given me the chance to speak with leading math and science professionals and gain insight into an industry I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.”

Houston PREP is an intensive, pre-college mathematics and science based program led by UHD’s Sangeeta Gad, the Houston PREP director.
The six-week, free-of-charge camp emphasizes development of problem solving and critical thinking skills for socially and economically disadvantaged students. Both middle and high school students with interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) apply every year for a limited number of spots — roughly 300.

According to the founder of Houston PREP, Dr. Richard A. Alo, 14 million jobs in STEM fields will go unfulfilled within the next decade if the U.S. does not prepare more teen-agers to pursue educations in mathematics and science.

Alo encourages PREP students to be aware of the opportunities around them and be a part of the rapidly growing science and mathematics fields that have become the basis for so many new discoveries and technology.

“So often, . . . we do not realize what gifts we are given, as they are not packaged as we expect them to be. Unwrap the gifts of science, engineering, mathematics and technology,” Alo said during his welcoming remarks.  

Many, including Dr. Luis Flobelo — a Shell engineer who spoke during the morning speaker presentations—have referred to the potential STEM field employment crisis as “the great crew change,” a perfect storm created by an aging workforce and rapidly growing job opportunities.

As a program, Houston PREP aims to be a part of the efforts to expose the dire need for STEM employees and ensure that Houston-area students will be at the top of the list to move into those positions when they complete their educations.

The Houston PREP method has been extremely successful with roughly 95 percent of former students graduating from college, 75 percent of whom obtain STEM degrees.

Coleman and other participating students headed to the first of three speaker-led presentations after opening remarks in the auditorium. Speakers included college professionals, scientists, mathematicians, industry leaders, and premier high school teachers.

Following speaker sessions and a short lunch break, the students presented STEM projects they’d been working on in groups during the six-week program. 

Those who complete the course load earn high school graduation credit that has been approved by the Texas Education Agency and are eligible for UHD scholarships.

For more information on the Houston PREP Engineering Day and six-week program visit: http://www.uhd.edu/academic/colleges/sciences/ccsds/hou_prep/aboutUs.html

SBISD students who participated in Houston PREP:

Cornerstone Academy- Janelle Le

Landrum Middle School- Maurico Alvarado, Nitzarindani Angeles, Brandon Baltazar, Erik Baltazar, Blanca Bonilla, Cuauhtemoc Campos-Arroyo, Keisy Castillo, Josylynn Chan, Erick Chungata, Tericka Davenport, Luis De Los Santos, Sergio Espinoza, Felicity Fernandez, Brissa Gaona, Jose Lopes, Mariana Macias, Tanya Madrid, Sandra Melgar, Fernando Meza, Julieta Munoz, Luan Nguyen, Ruby Ochoa Laila Ortega, Ulyses Pelcastre, Karla Perez, Emily Resendiz , Jawueline Rios, Abigail Romero, Alicia Villalta, Juan Zelaya 

Memorial Middle School- Pierce Nguyen, Alejandro Yanes 

Northbrook High School- Briana Baltazar, Matthew Campos, Yazmin Martinez, Dulce Olvera, Jesus Perez, Alexandra Rangel, Ludguin Ruiz, Emmanuel Salas, Valerie Argueta, Irma Flores, Gissela Prisciliano, Melissa Vicente 

Spring Branch Middle School- Kate Coxic, Emalee Higgins 

Stratford High School- Naxlee Khadjeheian 

Westchester Academy for International Studies- Cyndia Alcarado, Bryan Chun, Ezekiel Coleman, Nancy Duarte Villafan, Fahad Iqbal, Paloma June, Maria Linerio, Alyssa McNeil, Celesta Monsivaiz, Megan Narvaez, Raman Srivastava, Adrian Villalobos

This article was written by Communications Dept. Intern, Kali Venable. 


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