In the news:
experience life as college students
For five South Houston Intermediate School eighth
graders, the journey to college has already begun as they recently spent
an entire weekend as college students at the University of
Jose Alvarez, Pedro Isidro, Idalia Martinez, Carlos
Trevino, Olga Trevino and Anthony Gonzalez lived the college life for a
weekend recently as part of the Duke University Talent Identification
Program (TIP) and the University of Houston-Downtown Scholar Weekends
Scholar Weekends is an opportunity for students in grades 8-11 to take
short college courses during weekend long programs at the university.
Eligible students must have been recognized in the Duke University TIP,
which is a non-profit organization that recognizes academically
qualified students and invites them to complete college entrance exams
(SAT or ACT) alongside high school students. Students are recognized for
their test scores, provided with detailed information about their
abilities and introduced to a network of academic opportunities through
"It is very important to capture the interest of
students on their future post-secondary goals at an early age," said
South Houston's GEAR UP coordinator Neitzy Retta. "Career oriented
workshops such as the Scholar Weekends provide the students with
hands-on experience and education on several careers."
The students were able to choose to attend one of
five courses during the Scholar Weekend. Alvarez and Isidro chose the
"Extreme Engineering: A Design Challenge" course in which they learned
first-hand how engineers succeed while working under constraints. They
were presented with a "MacGyver" design challenge where they only had a
limited supply of every day materials available to solve their problem.
While solving their problem, the students were able to investigate
real-life examples of "extreme" design challenges from many engineering
discipline and learned how engineers use their proficiency in math,
science and creativity.
"Having the opportunity to take a course such as
the extreme engineering one provides accelerated enrichment for students
on topics they can't typically take courses in at this age," said
Pasadena ISD's GEAR UP coordinator Karen McCarley. "It allows them to
explore a topic and make connections between that topic, the education
required to study that topic and the future careers related to it."
Martinez, Gonzalez, and Carlos and Olga Trevino
enrolled in "The Super Bowl Commercial Phenomenon" course where they
were able to create self-produced commercials on gum product called
"I wanted to learn about media," said Martinez. "We
invented and advertised for a product called Gumza. It was really fun
and interesting to make the commercial."
The students learned techniques for effective
commercial writing by hearing about the inside stories behind great
Super Bowl commercials and analyzing the ideas and key points that
resulted in their success. They judged commercials for their
effectiveness using a remote polling device and then wrote the
storyboard for their own $2.6 million commercial.
"We learned a lot about cameras and the editing
process," said Olga. "It's hard work but a lot of fun."
But the Scholar Weekend wasn't all about taking
classes. The soon-to-be college scholars also stayed the night in a
university dorm, ate university food and toured the campus during their
"It was fun experiencing the college life," said
Gonzalez. "I got to see what real college students do almost every day,
and I can't wait to be able to really live that way."
Other courses the students could have chosen
included "Is There a Doctor in the House?," "Detective with a Syringe,"
"Decision 2008: Presidential Campaigns and Elections," "Out of the Box:
Writing Creatively," and "Criminal Trial Advocacy."
Along with having fun as a college student, Retta
said this experience helped prepare her students for college by
providing them with the information needed to start making decisions.
"Programs like this one prepare students with a
pathway to their future," she said. "It gives them guidance on what
classes are recommended to take in high school and what colleges are
popular for that particular career. Students can start researching
universities offering that major and start planning out their
Retta also said the Scholar Weekend will push her
students ahead of their peers and that she hopes it motivated them to be
excited about and involved in their education.
"When you provide students with this type of
experience, you provide them with a purpose as to why they are in
school," she said. "We expect students to perform well in school, but we
also need to show them what they can become if they do. When students
are exposed to college and obtain knowledge of careers, they start