Alhambra STEM Scholars finish first college course
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
The inaugural class of Grand Canyon University STEM Scholars completed a biology course on campus this week in a tuition-free program that is designed to rapidly prepare high school students to study science and technology in college.
The group of nearly 20 students from Alhambra High in the Phoenix Union High School District wrapped up their Biology 181 (General Biology) lecture and lab Wednesday. Many of the students in the STEM Scholars class are enrolled in Alhambra’s Medical and Health Studies program, one of many magnet programs in the Phoenix Union High district.
GCU announced the STEM Scholars program in December as GCU President/CEO Brian Mueller was representing the University in Washington, D.C., at the White House College Opportunity Summit. The Peoria Unified, Phoenix Union High and Vail Unified school districts are the first to give students, especially those from underrepresented and low-income families, access to GCU’s program.
It enables qualified high school juniors and seniors to earn up to 32 credit hours and finish their first year of college, at no expense to them, while still in high school. The program introduces students to college-level STEM coursework earlier in their academic careers to familiarize them with concepts, trends and challenges.
Alhambra junior Arleth Valencia has dreamed of being a surgeon since middle school. Now, the 16-year-old west Phoenix resident can see a path to medical school as she works to finish high school and earn a spot in a college program that will prepare her for graduate studies.
STEM Scholars is open to students with a GPA of 3.25 or higher who have focused on math and science.
“They say I’m really lucky to do that, and it takes a lot of effort, especially at a young age,” Valencia said.
Working in a lecture-lab format led by Dr. Maurice Jabbour of GCU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology helped Valencia understand how college courses work — and how much material there is to memorize and apply in a lab setting.
“The lab was the best, working with a microscope and being able to see the concepts up close,” she said. “Rather than reading from the book and looking at the pictures, you really see it hands-on.”
Although Alhambra junior Mario Vega, 16, has always seen himself becoming a veterinarian, he is looking forward to learning about other branches of medicine to which he might be drawn over the next few years.
Vega said he found GCU’s General Biology course challenging and rewarding because the harder he worked, the more he was able to master the material in labs and quizzes.
“At first it was difficult, but after awhile, you get used to the workload,” he said.
GCU plans to accept all credits earned by STEM Scholars students, since the coursework is identical to what many undergraduates face. Courses are taught by qualified high school teachers during the regular school year and by GCU professors in the summer.
Reach Michael Ferraresi at 602-639-7030 or [email protected].