Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Seaside students get a taste for higher education during "Imagine College."

It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Friday – early for many teenagers on summer vacation – and a group of Seaside High students are hunched over worktables in a chemistry lab, thick plastic goggles protecting their eyes. 

Beneath a Periodic Table of the Elements, the students are making biodegradable plastic from vinegar, glycerin and tapioca starch.

The class is part of the Imagine College Summer Scholar Institute at Cal State University Monterey Bay. The program's goal is to give students a taste of campus life and encourage them to think that college is a realistic possibility. During the weeklong program, the students take a class of their choosing, go on field trips, tour campus, and attend a panel where first-generation college graduates tell their stories.

This summer, they could choose to take a class in kinesiology, chemistry or SAT test preparation for those who are entering their senior year.

Giselle Duenas chose the chemistry class. The junior said she’s interested in science, took biology at Seaside High, and was eager to try a different subject.

“I thought it was going to be in a classroom, with lectures,” she said. “But, every day we have done experiments. It’s been fun.”

Friday’s experiment followed from their visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium the previous afternoon.

“They learned about the problems with plastics and the environment when they visited the aquarium. The experiment we’re doing today makes them aware of their use of plastics,” said Crystal Gonzalez, a CSUMB instructor who is teaching the class.

A lesson earlier in the week involved cosmetics and chemistry, where students made their own lip balm and lotion. Other lessons involved the chemistry of crime science investigation, where they learned about DNA extraction and fingerprint analysis.

“It’s a great program. We’ve gotten to do some cool things I wouldn’t have had a chance to do otherwise, said junior Justin Doolittle.

Imagine College is a local collaborative with some school districts to bring high school students experience a taste of college. As an additional bonus, a local resident donated money to provide a $4,000 scholarship to any student who graduates from Seaside High with a 2.5 grade-point average, attends two weeks of Imagine College while in high school and gets accepted to a college or university.

-- Joan Weiner, CSUMB

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