Local high school students get hands-on experience with science

Local high school students get hands-on experience with science

POSTED: Saturday, December 7, 2013 - 9:45pm

UPDATED: Saturday, December 7, 2013 - 11:53pm

A group of local high school students got excited about science on Saturday, and were given the opportunity of a lifetime to work with professionals in the field.

Dressed in white lab coats with goggles in hand, 36 juniors from Irvin High School got a taste of college and went beyond the basics of science.

"The beneficiaries are going to be these young people who are going to get an experience of a lifetime very early in their careers, so they'll have a chance to be able to think about if this is something they'd like to do, and I think once they get into the labs, they'll love it," said Dr. Diana Natalicio, the President of UTEP.

It's all part of a $1.5 million program called "Work with a Scientist," funded by the National Science Foundation to bring high school students to a local college campus so they can work with real scientists on their experiments in a lab.

"I'm excited because this opportunity is very rare to get and it's going to help me in my future with my career," said Clarissa Zelaya.

The goal is to convince more kids to go into a career in the "STEM" fields - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

On Saturday, students came to UTEP with their families for their very first orientation, and they were divided into research groups, given goggles, and lab coats with their names embroidered on the front.

It was a proud moment for Lisa Castro as her son Zach put his lab coat on.

"I had my kids very young. As a matter of fact, I ended up getting a GED so this is very exciting that our second child is going to graduate and already have a chance to go to college before he's even done with high school," said Lisa.

Students later met their program scientists and took a tour of the labs.

"I could learn the college experience and know how science are in college, different from high school," said Laura Aguilar.

"We get more experience than any person would so we're actually one step ahead or two steps ahead than anybody else," said Mario Rodriguez.

This year, the Texas Education Agency chose Irvin High School to participate in the program because its magnet program focuses on STEM-related courses and 83% of the student body is considered "economically disadvantaged."

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