STEM Outreach

Summer Camp Program Prepares Newcomer Students for Success

Students from English as a Second Language classes in HISD camp out at the University of Houston and experience college life.
Students from English as a Second Language classes in HISD camp out at the University of Houston and experience college life.

The University of Houston College of Technology in partnership with the College of Education, formed a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) summer camp, which was designed for multicultural students through the UH Houston Independent School District (HISD) Migrant English as a Second Language (ESL) Newcomer Collaboration.

A group of junior and senior high school students spent two weeks at the University of Houston as an immersion in science technology, engineering, and math studies, June 6 to 17. Many of the participating students are first generation or newly arriving (newcomer) immigrants who have had no exposure to college life and are not sure about where they need to start in order to prepare for college.

Funded by the HISD Multilingual Department, the program provided an assistant to accompany the students throughout the on-campus experience. "This collaboration proved to be a great experience for our students and parents," said Magda Galindo, Manager, Multilingual Programs for HISD. "We are excited that newcomer students from Westside, Austin, Furr, and Wheatley high schools were included and plan to expand the program next summer to include other immigrant students in addition to newcomers."

Dr. Francisco Hernandez Robles, engineering technology professor in the UH College of Technology, worked with Dr. Augustina Reyes, professor for the special populations program in the UH College of Education. Her focus is on urban educational leadership in environments with diverse populations to design the camp's curriculum and projects.

Most of the students who attended the camp are from non-English speaking countries. The program's design reflects the importance of helping the students to define goals, exposing them to many decisions that they need to consider, such as admissions standards, financial aid, residential life, and careers. "We are proud to be able to introduce the students to the experience of being on a college campus for the first time, learning about each other's cultures, finding out what college life is all about, and working on their math and science skills," Dr. Reyes said.

Although eight different languages were represented, most of the students spoke Spanish. Camp instructors addressed the language differences by teaching algebra in Spanish and English as an innovative approach that proved to be effective. Spanish math lessons were facilitated by engineering students who are visiting with Dr. Francisco Robles in the College of Technology from Mexico. Students were also mentored by UH undergraduate students with the leadership of program coordinator, Spencer Wright.

"The students are very energetic and I was very impressed by their positive attitudes and drive", said Dr. Robles. "We are pleased that the College of Technology is playing an important role in making a difference in the lives of these future technologists."

"Higher education in the United States is very different from the home countries of these students. This collaboration motivates our newcomer students to ask the right questions as they prepare to finish high school and think about their future," said Josie Trevino, college readiness manager for HISD.

Alejandro Herrera
Alejandro Herrera

Alejandro Herrera, a student at The Rusk School, visited the College of Technology to proudly show off his prize winning sixth grade science project that he worked on in one of the College of Technology engineering technology labs last semester. He analyzed the temperature effect on the properties of steel and aluminum. The Rusk School focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.