Grant seeks to aid low-income high school students

Jaclyn Rymer

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Summer school and after-school tutoring aren’t exactly the words a high school student wants to hear.

Creating robots, bridge building, mock criminal investigation and college success are words that might have a different appeal to high school students. At least that is what Javier Hernandez, CSUN director of student outreach and recruitment, is hoping.

CSUN received a four-year grant from the federal government totaling $1 million to fund an Upward Bound program with an emphasis on math and the sciences.

“The intent of the grant is to work with low-income and first-generation students to pursue careers in math and science and prepare them for college,” Hernandez said. “There is a shortage of first-generation, low-income students going into the math and sciences.”

This is the second grant that CSUN has received from the government, and the second Upward Bound program is in the final stages of preparing classes for the academic year. The classes are tailored to benefit kids interested in math, science, technology, engineering or mechanics with educational activities like creating a robot and constructing a model of a bridge, said Martin Perez, the Upward Bound program director.

Martin said that interviewing and selecting the students is the next step for the program.

Only three local high schools – Canoga Park High School, Cleveland High School and John F. Kennedy High School – have been chosen by CSUN to take part in the program. Between those three schools, only 50 students will be accepted into the Upward Bound program.

“Upward Bound is a great program,” said Pam Hamashita, principal of Canoga Park High School. “It provides resources to students that high school would not normally provide.”

The new program is developing a plan for students to excel with integrative approaches and hands-on experience that generate an interest in math and the sciences, Martin said. He wants the 50 students from the program to be able to “think outside of the box.”

The student curriculum for the year is not finalized yet, but Martin and Hernandez confirmed that there would be different workshops at least once a month covering topics such as test-taking strategies and how to fill out a college application. There will also be a Saturday academy and field trips to California colleges and universities to explore different disciplines in math and science.

When the academic year ends, the summer school component of Upward Bound begins, and for six weeks the students will be living on the CSUN campus and doing projects involving math and science, Hernandez said.

Martin said the application process should take place next week if everything goes according to schedule. The process is expected to be extensive and competitive.

Students will have to write an essay about how they will become the professionals they desire relating to areas of math and science. Hopeful students, as well as their parents, must also sit down for an interview.

The students clearly possessing motivation, a desire to go to college and a genuine interest in math and science will be chosen for the program, Martin said.

Although the 50 spots are open to all high school students within these three schools, Martin said ideally he’d like to recruit mostly ninth and 10th graders so they can stay in the program for a few years and hone a variety of skills, giving them a better chance at being successful in college.

Students aren’t the only ones participating in Upward Bound. Parents have to join in the fun as well. There will be English-language classes offered to parents, Martin said, and parents will be informed of possible financial aid assistance for their kids when the time comes to apply to college.

CSUN professors will be teaching the Upward Bound program alongside other credentialed teachers. Martin said the chemistry department and the CSUN Engineering Club have also shown an interest in helping the students.