Rice U. Summer Camp Sparks Chávez HS students’ Interest in Science

A dozen female students from Chávez High School are spending their summer studying science and building new relationships, thanks to a new three-year program at Rice University.

The girls had to apply for acceptance to the program, and 80 percent of the 15 participating were selected from Chávez (the remainder are from a local charter school).

“We decided that we wanted to have a program that was interactive with girls in particular,” said Yousif Shamoo, a biochemistry professor at the university. “We looked for girls who had a spark interest in science…just that little bit of a spark in their creativity and thinking.”

Participants spent the first week visiting area museums and labs and learning how science is applied to everyday things, such as how METRORail trains work and how produce is grown. They are also living in the dorms on campus.

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“They’re getting a sense of how to build a community outside their nuclear family, so it’s an opportunity to navigate all those issues we all navigate—when do you want to take a shower, who wants to go to bed early, who wants to get up early,” said Lisa Blinn, the associate director of Rice’s Institute of Bioscience and Bioengineering. “These girls are between 13 and 15, so it’s an opportunity for them to see girls they didn’t know before they got here, and to learn how to respect space.”

In the second year of the program, students will focus on their specific areas of science that interest them, and they’ll also mentor first-year students. The students will begin preparing for college in the third year.

“We really hope to see college enrollment from all the students who participate in the program,” Blinn said. “We would love to see a growth, from this program, in girls in science and engineering. The girls have the ability to not only make an impact on their life but to transform the lives of their siblings and people in their own community.”

“I’ve been liking science,” student Andrea Hernandez said. “I think this program has taught me to start loving it.”