by Victor Lopez
ODESSA--Over 200 Permian Basin students are hoping to get ahead in the education game.
Getting stereo sound out of a Styrofoam bowl and building toothpick bridges that withstand up to 25 pounds, sounds like something from the TV show, "MacGyver." But, that's just part of what 214 junior and senior high school students have been learning about at UTPB, for the last 7 weeks with TexPREP.
"Students get close to 100 hours of math, between problem solving and logic and the students get a sprinkle, per say, with some engineering course work," Rey Lascano, Special Assistant to the President at UTPB, said.
A joint effort between Midland and Odessa school districts is helping students from as far away as Lufkin, look beyond high school.
The emphasis is math and science. But program assistant Elias Martinez, a Sr. Biology major, says students are being exposed to things they haven't even covered in school, at least not yet.
"Some of them are just going into 7th grade, so they don't even know what algebra is. I tell them, look at it this way, once you're in 7th or 8th grade, you'll be ahead of everybody that's in there. You'll know how to do this stuff," Martinez said.
Sophomore Math major, Cecilia Borunda was a TexPREP student last summer. This year, she's back as a program assistant, helping those like her who have a thirst for knowledge.
"At first it's very challenging, especially if you're not used to doing math, especially if you're not liking school. It is hard, like I said, because it's our summer, it's your summer that you're giving up," Borunda explained.
Seven certified teachers and 18 program assistants take the students through a day, very similar to a regular school day. TexPREP was such a big hit last summer, causing this year's attendance to double.
The materials students were using to hone their math and science skills are things you can find in your local grocery store or even laying around the kitchen. But the most important thing is the advantage it gives them in the classroom, come next fall.
But according to Lascano, there's more to TexPREP than Popsicle sticks and rubber bands, "There's a $2,000 academic scholarship and a $500 book scholarship that Dr. Watts has provided for each student. That's a presidential decision."
If you do your math, that's over half a million dollars, going to kids that Lascano says might have never thought college was possible.
But it wasn't all work and no play. As part of the program, TexPREP students got a chance to visit places like the McDonald Observatory, Carlsbad Caverns, even NASA in Houston.
Even though it was a bit of a sacrifice, it's seems that giving up your summer to go to school isn't such a bad trade off.
"It gives them that confidence, like, 'oh I saw this during the summer. I think I can do this already,'" Martinez said.
"It felt awesome to go back to school, to sit down and know something they're about to teach you, you've already learned it," Borunda added.