STEM Scholars Program celebrates another successful semester

May 10, 2018

Newman University celebrated another successful semester of the STEM Scholars Program with 23 high school students and their families on Wednesday afternoon.

Through the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Scholars Program, area high school students  come to the Newman campus once a week to explore different areas of STEM, getting hands-on experience and allowing them an opportunity to discover if they want to learn more and eventually pursue a career in one of the many STEM fields.

Using science to make ice cream, conducting explosive experiments, listening to STEM professionals and having fun with math were just some of the ways high school students spent their time during the spring 2018 semester.

Associate Professor of Biology Stacy Jones, Ph.D., has been organizing the STEM Scholars Program activities since its founder, Professor of Biology Surendra Singh, Ph.D., retired.

Jones said she is loving every minute of it — especially watching the students grow throughout the semester.

“One of the goals of this program is to just help students realize the soft skills within the different STEM fields and how to use those skills to work as a team,” said Jones.

The celebration ceremony, during which participants are presented with a special certificate and gift, has become a traditional ending to the semester-long program.

Newman University President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D., kicked off  things by congratulating the students for their hard work and dedication throughout the semester, saying, “You could have done a lot of other things with your time … but you chose to do this, to learn about science in a way that you couldn’t have done in a high school setting.”

She added, “The blessing of the program is that you get to find out what you’re attracted to within the STEM fields … and what you really don’t like.”

STEM Scholars
The 2018 STEM Scholars Program students: (back row, left to right) Isaiah Gayden, Sadie Bakeberg, Kevin Zapata, Dareana Villanueva, Carlos Gonzalez, Amie Rodarte, Jasmin Soriano and Daniel Berruecos; (center row, left to right) Emelie Nickel, Ashley Guevara, Claudia Hernandez, Liliana Sanchez, Guadalupe Alvarado, Gabriella Garcia, Dayanara Rivera and Marianna Dewing; (front row, left to right) Antonio Hernandez-Reynoso, Jennifer Anima-Valdez, Maria Lira-Rodriguez, Carolina Mariscal and Melissa Derath. Not pictured: Denay Hickey and Mayrany Valadez

Isaiah Gayden, a freshman at Maize High School, said he heard about the program through a counselor at his school. He heard the name Newman and went straight to his mom to ask if he could try it out.

“My favorite part of the program had to be either the labs or the new people,” said Gayden. “Getting to know these people I’d never met before was really cool. And the labs were really fun, really interactive.”

He also mentioned that he highly enjoyed learning in the new Bishop Gerber Science Center, simply stating, “It’s heaven.”

Gayden said he leaves the program with a higher amount of excitement and curiosity about the different STEM areas and will definitely continue to explore the options for his future.

Gayden’s father, Patterson, is an English teacher at Wichita West High School. He said he saw a bit of change in his son throughout the semester.

“I saw him awaken to the fact that there is going to be a transition,” he said. “One of the benefits of being a high school teacher is seeing that transition from high school life to a higher education life. It was interesting to see him realize that he’s not far from college and that he should start exploring these types of things sooner rather than later.”

Maria "Izzy" Lira-Rodriguez
Wichita North High School sophomore Maria “Izzy” Lira-Rodriguez

Maria “Izzy” Lira-Rodriguez is a sophomore at Wichita North High School. This is her second year with the STEM Scholars Program. She said coming back was important to her because she plans to be a doctor someday, and learning all she can now is only going to help her later.

She is currently a part of the bio-med program at her high school, already learning about what college could be like and preparing for the world of higher education.

She said she really enjoyed listening to the speakers throughout the semester and learning about what it’s like out in the real world.

“Hearing them speak about their jobs, and finding out that they weren’t always sure what they wanted to do at a young age, helped me feel better about not being sure about my future,” explained Lira-Rodriguez. “I know I want to be a doctor, but I’m not sure which kind yet.”

She said coming to a college campus each week was also a great part of the semester.

“Coming to Newman for this program, walking on campus and into the classrooms, made me feel very mature and I really look forward to college.”