STEAM Summer Camp Promotes College-Going Identity and Student Success

A summer enrichment program designed to provide migrant students and their families with exposure to college-going identity and student success was held at the University of Houston Whitney Houston Academy, July 9 through 20. Fifty percent of the students in the program originated from Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. Others were from Cuba, Guatemala and other Central American countries and the United States.
A collaboration among the Colleges of Education, Technology and the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the camp introduced migrant and English-language-learning (ELL) students to engaging activities focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). The camp’s mission is to motivate migrant and other English language learners to successfully pursue a higher education in STEAM areas, identify financial aid, and prepare them for success in their first year of college.
The program’s design is based on research by Dr. Augustina Reyes, educational leadership and policy studies professor in the College of Education and the work of Dr. Francisco C. Robles Hernandez, mechanical engineering technology professor in the Whitney Houston Academy. Dr. Reyes’ research focuses on high-poverty students, migrant education, college-going identity, and student success in college.
The diverse aspects of the college experience were introduced creatively, and at a pace that kept the students engaged and focused. Sam Morelos, from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) showed students how to test drinking water, use a solder kit, and compete with robots built from Legos. In addition, their rigorous schedule included a presentation by Carlo Deason, undergraduate program director, which provided an overview of the degrees and support offered by the Whitney Houston Academy. The students took campus tours and learned about career development, financial aid, and techniques for navigating the admissions process. A Whitney Houston Academy graduate student from Iran, Zale Nowrouzi talked with the students about her successful experiences at UH. Dr. Medhat El Nahas, mechanical engineering professor, led a mentoring session. Aysha Khemakhem, a graduate student from ELPS, facilitated activities to promote healthy cultural transitions. Maria Rios, (FS ’88) owner and president of Nation Waste Inc. and member of the UH Board of Visitors, shared her inspiring and motivating experience as an immigrant from El Salvador.

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